Tuesday, July 9, 2013


By Schmoel Yitzhak

John Kerry reminds me of a baseball pitcher from yesteryear with an usual nickname.

Hugh Mulcahy was his real name. He pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies in the late 1930s before serving in World War II.

Mulcahy was a good hurler on  one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball history. Which meant that no matter the good stuff he may have had on the ball, his teammates inadvertently would undermine his efforts.

As a result, good, old Hughie got the nickname "Losing Pitcher" because at the bottom of the box score of most games Hughie started, there would be an LP: Mulcahy. And it wasn't for winning either.

John Kerry is politics answer to Hugh Mulcahy. The Secretary of State -- he's on his sixth visit to Israel -- steps on the mound and makes his pitch for kick-starting peace talks and like Mulcahy winds up with yet another LP Kerry at the bottom of the box score.

What's disturbing about this latest Kerry assignment is a report in the Arabic Al-Hayat newspaper suggesting that Benjamin Netanyahu has tentatively agreed to Mahmoud Abbas' demands for pre-conditions before coming to the bargaining table.

The first thing to know is that the story appeared in a London-based Arabic journal which means that it may very well have been planted by the duplicitous Palestinians to gain some sort of propaganda edge before Kerry and Bibi actually start talking. 

As for the alleged Al-Hayat-reported pre-conditions, they included a quiet Israeli construction freeze outside of large settlement blocs and a phased release of security prisoners, many with blood on their hands.

The good news -- for the moment at least -- is that a senior Israeli official quickly debunked the Al-Hayat report and Avigdor Lieberman seconded the veto.

Since Lieberman is Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, his words bear added value. And when he says that conditions are not ripe for a breakthrough, Lieberman means it.

"We will fight against and adamantly object to any decision regarding the release of terrorists or freezing construction," Lieberman asserts. 

Which is well and good but I would have preferred to hear those words directly from the Prime Minister. I want to hear Bibi unequivocally declare both to the Israeli public as well as to Kerry-Abbas that he has no intention whatsoever to capitulate to Arab demands for pre-conditions.

I say this because the where-there-smoke-there's-fire adage could very well be applied to the Al-Hayat report. Consider these possibilities:

1. In order to get an edge -- weaken Israel's position -- a propagandist on the Palestinian side could have planted the pre-condition story and then hope for the (Arab) best.

2. Desperate to avoid going oh-for-six in his shuttle diplomacy, Kerry himself could have arranged the Al-Hayat item to gain some sort of leverage with Bibi.

Here's the problem: over the past decade Israel has been too easily coerced by a desperate Obama administration which has re-defined incompetence. (See Egypt if you think I'm kidding.)

Rather than taking the initiative when it knows that it's doing the right thing, Jerusalem too often winds up in retreat. 

Perhaps the best -- or worst, depending on your viewpoint -- example is the Mavi Marmara episode and its aftermath. 

Because the Turkish-inspired invasion of Israeli waters was correctly blunted by the Israeli Navy with the deaths of nine activists, the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded an apology from Israel. 

(A reality check would have determined that the apology should have been delivered by Turkey.) 

At first Netanyahu held his ground, dismissing any possibility of bowing to the Erdogan demands. And Bibi was right to do so but then another element intervened. 

Inevitably wrong in his judgement -- see Egypt as Exhibit A -- Obama pushed Israel to apologize for the blockade-busting deaths. 

The president whose middle name should be "Appease-At-All-Costs" sold Israel's Prime Minister a bill of cheap goods. According to Obama's theory, an Israeli apology would rekindle warm relations between Turkey and Israel. 

Trouble is, Obama wouldn't know a bully if he punched the chief executive in the mouth; and Erdogan is a Class B  bully. Not only have Turkish-Israeli relations not improved; they're as frigid as ever because Erdogan believes he has intimidated his Jewish adversary.  Writing in The Times of Israel, Aaron Kalman put the issue in proper perspective.

"The apology," writes Kalman, "which was prompted by Obama's visit was supposed to lead to a thawing of relations with Ankara -- once Israel's closest regional ally -- but relations have remained chilly."

That's my point; Israel was coerced into a negative position. It's a feeling shared by the electorate. In fact a new poll discloses that a majority of Israelis believe that the country's apology was misguided. No less than 71 percent responded that way to a poll released by the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University.

This should be a lesson for Bibi the next time Kerry pushes the Prime Minister toward pre-conditions leading to peace talks.

So far, Kerry's only claim to fame since he launched his Ramallah-Jerusalem shuttle is that he's yet to put one win on the board and even Hugh Mulcahy was able to do that.

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