JOHN KERRY BEGINS WORLD TOUR
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd
25 Feb 13. If you don’t already know who John Forbes Kerry is all about and what he stands for you very soon will. For the record last month Mr. Kerry was appointed as the 68th US Secretary of State – taking over from the efficient and highly respected Hillary Rodam Clinton who had conducted affairs of state all the way through President Obama’s first term in office. Aged 69 and having been a past chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry is to be regarded as an excellent choice in my view for what is arguably the most important office in the United States below that of Mr. President.
Today Mr. Kerry begins a first large scale overseas tour that will take in nine countries including the capitals of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey before he moves on to the Middle East visiting the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE. Until now Mr. Kerry will have been best known to his hosts for the challenge he made in an attempt to prevent a second George W Bush term in office in 2004. He lost but he did so very graciously. Very soon though his hosts will see him as a man who has international diplomacy flowing through his veins. A good choice then and it is of no coincidence that this first European and Mid-East tour by Mr. Kerry is taking place just one month before President Obama himself heads off to Jerusalem. Europe’s leaders will no doubt wish to engage Mr. Kerry this week on many things and not least US policy toward Syria. But it is probably Israel and the next moves in the so-called window of opportunity of Middle East peace process that will be on the minds of most serious diplomats.
History can show us that settlement of any crisis first requires a catalyst to get things moving. I am not sure whether exhaustion after 65 years of attempts to achieve a lasting settlement of Jewish and Palestinian flux may be considered as a catalyst for yet another attempt but it can certainly do no harm. President Obama’s upcoming visit to Jerusalem offers just such an opportunity and Mr. Kerry’s foreign tour will at least allow him to report back wide ranging views from his hosts.
It is of some interest to me and having recently attended a private conference that discussed the issue of whether a two-state solution to the long running problems that divide Middle East I proffer my own thoughts here. Everyone wants a solution of the Israel/Palestine problem but deep down most know that a solution that does not involve Israel engaging with all parties including Hamas is hardly likely to achieve much. Most also know that there can be no solution to this problem without critical US involvement and significant amounts of diplomacy. Whether the US should now accept that its almost total support of Israel is equally to blame for the failed peace process as is Israel’s constant policy of land grab is not for conjecture here although both suggestions can hardly be ignored. The consensus view of a Mid-East peace construct process resumption is that while not yet completely dead in the water hopes for a two-state solution have faded to the point if this now being all but impossible to achieve. Never say never so they say but it is certainly true that the future for Jerusalem itself remains a really crucial problem to resolve and one that as we look at it now on the face of it looks all but equally impossible.
I suspect that as there is little chance of achieving a deal on sovereignty and that as the international community seems to be either exhausted or at the very least less bothered than it was about finding a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli problem that President Obama’s upcoming visit will do little more than remind the world of just how potentially serious the differences between the two sides are. I am not sure who it was that said recently ‘deep down Israel loves HAMAS because it makes a deal