Did John Kerry Advise Palestinian Leader Abbas To Wait Out Trump?

By Patrick Goodenough | January 26, 2018 | 4:15am EST
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in 2013. (Photo: State Department, File)

(CNSNews.com) – Former Secretary of State John Kerry is under fire for allegedly urging Palestinian leaders to hold firm against President Trump’s demands because he won’t be in office for long.

But former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday he doubted Kerry would have given such “anti-American” and “stunningly unpatriotic” advice to the Palestinians.

Kerry has not responded publicly to claims, first reported by the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, that he made the comments during a recent meeting in London with Hussein Agha, a longstanding confidante of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Agha reportedly briefed P.A. officials in Ramallah afterwards on the wide-ranging conversation.

According to the report Kerry told his interlocutor to advise Abbas to “hold on and be strong” and not to yield to Trump’s demands, suggesting the president may not be in White House for much longer.

Kerry also reportedly told Agha that if Trump does last a full first term, he may mount another White House run in 2020. Kerry was the Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2004 presidential election, when he lost to President George W. Bush.

The former secretary of state was quoted as advising that Abbas present a “positive” peace initiative of his own, for which Kerry would work to garner support.

And he allegedly counseled Abbas, via Agha, to direct his criticism not at the U.S. or the administration, but at Trump personally, on the grounds that the president was solely responsible for the current situation.

Trump angered the Palestinians and their supporters last month by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and signaling plans to move the U.S. Embassy to the city. In a recent speech, Abbas attacked Trump, employing an Arabic curse translated as “may his house be razed.”

Agha, a Lebanese academic and author, is a senior associate of Oxford University’s St. Antony’s College who was deeply involved in previous behind-the-scenes Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives. Attempts to reach him for comment on the reported conversation with Kerry were unsuccessful.

Reacting to the reports, the Republican Jewish Coalition called Kerry’s alleged actions “reckless.”

“John Kerry failed for four years as secretary of state to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Now he wants a second bite of the apple, a bite the American people chose not to give him when they rejected the Obama/Kerry foreign policy in 2016,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks.

“John Kerry is no longer a representative of the American people and his action – conducting a shadow foreign policy – is reckless and undermines the possibility of achieving peace,” he said. “The American people chose President Trump, in part, because he promised to pivot away from the failed policies of John Kerry."

Former House Speaker Gingrich said Thursday he doubted Kerry would have made the comments attributed to him.

“That would surprise me. Kerry knows, as former secretary of state, former U.S. senator, that that kind of advice would be stunningly unpatriotic,” Gingrich told the “Fox and Friends” program. “And I don’t think that John Kerry would do something like that. I hope he wouldn’t.”

He added that he would be “very, very surprised” if Kerry had “said anything that was that overtly anti-American.”

As for the possibility of a Kerry 2020 run, Gingrich also said he’d be “perfectly happy” about that. “The more Democrats who decide that they’ll run for president the better off we’re going to be in 2020. I think Trump will beat any of them so it doesn’t concern me very much.”

‘Messianic fervor’

During his four-year tenure at the helm of the State Department Kerry worked energetically to advance Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Months after becoming secretary of state in early 2013, Kerry met with Arab government ministers in Jordan, and was told that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was the “core” reason for regional instability.

Despite the raging Syrian civil war, spreading jihadist violence in Iraq and a military takeover in Egypt following months of violent protests against a Muslim Brotherhood president, Kerry did not publicly challenge the claim.

Instead, he told reporters after the meeting that many ministers had told him “that the core issue of instability in this region and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Shortly thereafter Kerry launched a concerted effort to kick start talks between Israel and the P.A., but after nine months the initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Israel’s then-defense minister was reprimanded by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for saying that Kerry was driven by “messianic fervor” in his efforts to promote peace talks – a view likely shared by others in the Israeli establishment.

In the closing weeks of Obama’s term, Kerry defended the administration’s decision not to veto a controversial U.N. Security Council resolution which described areas disputed between Israelis and Palestinians – including eastern Jerusalem, home to Judaism’s most sacred site – as “occupied Palestinian territory.”

Kerry said the administration’s main objective in allowing the measure to pass was “to preserve the possibility of the two-state solution, which every U.S. administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

In fact the two-state solution was not U.S. policy for “decades.”  The first U.S. president to publicly declare support for an independent Palestinian state was George W. Bush, in a 2002 speech that reversed more than four decades of American policy.

 

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