by Brent Budowsky
Robert Kennedy, speaking of John Kennedy, using words they would both probably use to praise John Kerry, said that JFK’s favorite quote was this: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”
This quote from Dante, derived from his Inferno, describes the way Kerry performs his role as secretary of State. Kerry clearly envisioned and passionately warned that the people of Israel and Palestine must choose between two alternative futures.
The first future is the negotiated creation of a two-state solution that would leave Israel and a new state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security, with a prosperity that is unimaginable in a world of perpetual occupation, terrorism and bloodshed.
The alternative future is a world where Israelis live in a permanent dread of rockets and bombs aimed by terrorists to kill them, and Palestinians live in a world of perpetual poverty and misery beyond comprehension of the Western world, and the world is reduced to endlessly debating the moral calculus of how many justifiably dead terrorists excuses the deaths of how many intolerably dead babies.
Into this epic human, moral and security quagmire steps the secretary of State. He refuses to become a candidate for Dante’s hottest place in hell by maintaining his neutrality in times of crisis. He offers strategies, champions negotiations and seeks compromises to bring a long-term peace, achieve a short-term cease-fire that addresses security concerns to end the Gaza carnage and preserve a nuclear weapons-free Iran without yet another Mideast war.
Yes, these are hard cases against long odds. What is the alternative? Give up? Do nothing? Stand by? Wait? When I see the deluge of criticism of Kerry from sources, such as David Ignatius and Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, and Aaron David Miller of the Wilson Center, I ask: exactly what would THEY do as secretary of State that would bring any better chance of success? I see nothing.
On Tuesday night, former United Nations Ambassador Ken Adelman said on Erin Burnett’s show on CNN Tuesday night that the ongoing bloodshed in Gaza serves American interests, and that the opportunity for America is that the carnage continues and someone else is blamed. I find these comments among the most wrong, sickening and despicable ever aired on CNN. Remember: former President Reagan once called a prime minister of Israel and demanded he halt the bombing of civilians in Lebanon.
On the fundamental matters discussed here Kerry was right, is right and will always be right. The only way to avoid a century of carnage and bring true security to Israel and the Palestinians, and bring dignity and decency to Israelis and Palestinians alike, is through a cease-fire now and a two-state solution soon.
Has every decision Kerry made as secretary been right? Of course not. But he has been far ahead of the curve and has been right far more often than not, which those who wage the winds of derisive war against him cannot remotely claim.
Kerry wants to stop the rockets and close the tunnels that threaten Israel. He wants to end the poverty and stop the misery that makes life unbearable for Palestinians. He understands that to achieve these goals, he must often challenge and sometimes offend all parties to these conflicts, which wise historians will someday commend and future generations of warring combatants will someday applaud.
Kerry does this in faithful service to President Obama, whose Mideast polices follow the tradition of all American presidents and previous Israeli prime ministers since 1948. The repeated barrages of derision from the Israeli right toward Israel’s one great ally in a lonely world are profoundly wrong and profoundly unwise.
The God of many great faiths loves the children of Israel and Palestine equally. When the secretary of State works to save these children, John Kerry is right.