The overwhelming victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli elections was a crushing defeat for Secretary of State John Kerry, according to Politico
Kerry’s fading dreams of helping the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a peace agreement were almost certainly obliterated when Netanyahu stunned opposition leader Isaac Herzog in the election this week.
President Barack Obama had given little chance of Kerry pulling off a miracle anyway following the sudden, but not surprising, collapse last spring of the long, drawn-out negotiations between Jerusalem and the West Bank.
But Kerry has since been hanging onto a sliver of hope that he could get both parties back to the bargaining table after the election, Politico reported.
The leading U.S. statesman had even informed a reporter in Egypt last weekend, when Herzog was doing well in the polls, that he was looking forward to Israelis electing a government that could "obviously meet the hopes for peace."
But then Netanyahu, who has been in power with a coalition government for six years, was handed a resounding triumph with the help of a final speech saying that he would never support an independent Palestinian state.
Furthermore, the prime minister declared that he had approved new settlements in East Jerusalem specifically to expand Israeli territory over the 1967 borders, according to the political news website.
"Kerry was kind of packing his bags on the assumption that if Herzog won, he could pick up where he left off," said Daniel Kurtzer, who was President George W. Bush’s first ambassador to Israel.
"That’s gone. I’m sure Kerry doesn’t believe that, because he’s irrepressible. But all he had to do was listen to the prime minister the last few days," Kurtzer, an Obama supporter, told Politico.
And Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to the Palestinian negotiators, said, "The Israeli election results probably deal a fatal blow to any hopes Kerry might have still had of restarting negotiations, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Kerry or the administration is prepared to wash their hands of the whole matter."
Elgindy, who now works at Washington's Brookings Institution think tank, added, "There is still the possibility of some sort of 'Obama parameters' and/or some sort of U.N. action that preserves the possibility of a two-state solution."
Kerry only has two more years, at the most, as head of the State Department to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the other hand, Netanyahu will have another four years in power, if he can hold his right-leaning collation together in the Israeli Knesset.
The remote chance of Israel reaching any agreement with the Palestinians could be dealt another blow if the Israeli leader approves more settlements, as expected, in the not too distant future.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Politico that Netanyahu’s position on Palestine has "obviously" changed, implying that Kerry’s yearlong efforts of shuttle diplomacy may be dead in the water.
"Secretary Kerry believes deeply in a two-state solution, but his ambition in taking the job was to build on the 29 years he had in the Senate and serve as the nation’s chief diplomat on behalf of a president he endorsed early on. It was never about one issue," Psaki said.
"Historically, this issue has been very important and central to both Democratic and Republican administrations, and it will continue to be."
Obama has distanced himself from Netanyahu following the breakdown of the Palestinian talks last spring, and the president refused to meet with the prime minister while he was in Washington for his controversial speech to Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner.
And it was revealed Thursday that, following Netanyahu’s landslide victory, the Obama administration is planning a drastic shake-up in policy toward Israel
, and may get behind a U.N. Security Council resolution that would define the principle for a two-state solution based on Israel's 1967 borders.
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