A year and a half ago when John Kerry took over as secretary of state at the start of President Obama's second term, he set his sight on the quixotic holy grail of U.S. shuttle diplomacy, a Palestinian-Israeli peace. Today, with Hamas and Israel locked in a violent struggle, John Kerry has found he can't even negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, with The New York Times reporting that Israel told U.S. officials they did not need, and were not interested in, another round of "shuttle diplomacy" by Kerry. The U.N. Security Council has also called on both sides to cease fire.
Egypt has taken the lead on negotiating a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, a role it's assumed on and off since signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. That treaty was negotiated at Camp David with the help of President Jimmy Carter and insured by the promise of billions of taxpayer' dollars in U.S. aid aid to Egypt and Israel, an arrangement that continues to this day. That treaty ended a state of war between Egypt and Israel that began during the 1948 war that followed Israeli independence, and was the first time an Arab state recognized Israel. It also involved the withdrawal of Jewish civilians and troops from the Sinai peninsula, which Israel occupied after the Six Days' War in 1967. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty also led to Egypt being suspended from the Arab League for a year and eventually the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat by Islamist extremist s.
Thanks in large part to the annual U.S. aid, the peace treaty has survived nearly 40 years despite widespread disapproval among the Egyptian population and even when the Egyptian government was headed briefly by a president from the Muslim Brotherhood. Mohammed Morsi vowed to respect the peace treaty with Israel and during the last flare-up between Israel and Hamas he tried to broker a ceasefire, as Egypt is doing again now.
John Kerry would desperately like to be able to claim some kind of victory in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but his failure to make any progress so far, even as expectations are lowered, illustrates why the American government is a less-than-ideal, and hardly necessary, broker in whatever "peace process" may still exist. The U.S., for example, does not recognize Hamas so on the Palestinian side U.S. diplomats can only talk to Fatah, which has effectively no power in Gaza. Because of its aid to Israel, U.S. diplomats aren't seen as unbiased brokers. And as Israel's defense minister Moshe Yaalon showed when he said he wanted John Kerry to win a Nobel Peace Prize so he could leave Israel alone, there's a sense that U.S. involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peace process is more a matter of prestige than peacemaking per se. The U.S. government should give Yaalon what he wants: disengage from the peace process and stop subsidizing the Israeli military. Maybe it'll open the door for Israel and Palestine to settle their problems on their own the way they want.