Gen. Zinni: Kerry's 9-Month Mideast Peace Plan Was 'Naive'

Monday, 14 Jul 2014 06:47 PM

By Greg Richter

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Secretary of State John Kerry was "naive" to think the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved in nine months, says retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who suggests the best way to lessen Hamas' power is through investment in Gaza and the West Bank.

The United States and other Western nations missed a chance when Yasser Arafat died in 2004 and was succeeded by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Zinni said Monday on CNN's "The Lead With Jake Tapper." The west could have built schools and clinics and brought in investment in the areas, he said.

Such a move might have made the population more likely to have embraced the Fatah wing and reject the more violent Hamas.

"But we missed that opportunity," Zinni said. "Our own administration at the time was just exhausted and not interested in following through."

Zinni served as the United States' special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2002-03 under President George W. Bush.

Kerry's nine-month peace plan ended unsuccessfully in April, and in recent days Israel and Hamas have exchanged rocket fire spurred by the killing of three Israeli teens and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teen.

Hamas has fired rockets at several Israeli cities, which have been mostly intercepted by the country's "Iron Dome" missile defense system. Israel has retaliated by bombing areas in Gaza it says are hiding Hamas weaponry. But Israel has come under pressure for killing civilians in the process who are used as human shields to protect the targets.

Zinni told CNN the United States is the only entity in a position to influence Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and should bring in more allies to apply pressure.

"It's not just Qatar and Egypt," Zinni said. "I think he has to bring in the Arab League, Jordan, certainly Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority."

Such a move might help assure Israel that Hamas is answerable to somebody if a cease-fire agreement is reached.

Hamas and other groups have typically used violence to thwart any peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Zinni said that both seeking peace will have to eventually reject outside violence as an excuse to cut off talks.

Otherwise, he said, "It will always be violence and control."

Zinni said he suspects a Hamas drone shot down by Israel was likely obtained from Iran, assuming the drone was actually a sophisticated piece of equipment like is used by the U.S. military and not simply the type of drone used by hobbyists.

As for a threatened ground attack in Gaza from Israeli forces, Zinni said he could see such as scenario playing out if there is no acceptable cease-fire proposal.

"And it would be extremely bloody, house-to-house fighting in the mostly densely populated part of the earth will result in casualties on both sides," he said. "But particularly, the civilian population of Gaza will suffer greatly, I'm sure."

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