The denial released by the State Department’s deputy spokesperson, according to which Secretary Kerry did not connect between Israel and the growth of ISIL was a standard and expected diplomatic move. However, the denial is not enough to fix the immense damage caused by Kerry’s words from this past Thursday. While the junior spokesperson’s denial was laconic and brief, Kerry’s words were spoken to the cameras, and furthermore, his words were read off paper, after being carefully formulated and written with deliberate forethought.
If Kerry the politician wanted to curry favor with the large audience which filled the event hall at the top floor of the State Department building in Washington, he succeeded. This crowd was comprised of leaders of the Muslim community in the United States, who all nodded in agreement as Kerry boasted on the pulpit.
His words may have had a diplomatic goal, raising support and sympathy from Muslim and Arab states for the military moves made by the Americans against Islamist radicals in the Middle East. So far, the US-led coalition forces have failed to stop the spread of ISIL in the Middle East or of the Al-Qaeda offshoots in the heart of Africa. According to the estimates of US military experts, it will be impossible to defeat ISIL without the use of ground forces, which will lead to an unavoidable increase in the number of casualties among the civilian populace.
Or maybe Secretary Kerry, who cast all his hopes, as well as his reputation, on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wanted to increase the pressure on Israel. Kerry fears that the political leadership in Israel is taking advantage of the world’s focus on ISIL in order to avoid a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
Whether he meant to or not, Kerry linked the ISIL terror and radical Islam in the Middle East to Israel and the Palestinian problem, completely ignoring the true cause of violence and terror in the Middle East and beyond, which is a result of a radical Islamist ideology. The Islamist terror groups take advantage of the despair in Arab society, which suffers under backward dictatorial regimes who do not allow hope for a better future.
Providing a stage for such a twist of reality is dangerous as well as harmful, because it provides a boost for ISIL terror and supplies leaders of the region with an excuse with which to avoid true, painful reforms. If Kerry meant to pressure Israel to be more flexible when dealing with the Palestinians, in order to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough, the opposite is true, and his words merely strengthen the Palestinians’ tough and uncompromising positions.
Precisely in front of the leaders of the Muslim community in the United States, Kerry should have repeated the words of his President, who stated last month at the United Nations General Assembly: “The situation in Iraq and Syria and Libya should cure anybody of the illusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems in the region”.