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Initially, John Kerry seemed entirely copacetic with Benjamin Netanyahu’s requirement that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as the basis for any peace agreement.  After all, Mahmoud Abbas had already declared that no Jews would be allowed to live in any future Palestinian state, although more than a million and a half Arabs live in Israel.  Palestine, like almost all the Middle East but Israel, would be judenrein.

But then Abbas refused and, first via the State Department’s Jen Pseki and then through his own words, Kerry started to walk his agreement back.  He even claimed Netanyahu’s insistence on recognition was a “mistake.” In all probability Obama got to the secretary of State and changed his marching orders. What went wrong?

To begin with, we can assume the White House is panicked.  They are looking at foreign policy failure in every direction — Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya-Benghazi and now Ukraine, and that’s leaving aside Russia and China, where their ineptitude has been staggering.  ”Leading from behind” has been mocked as an absurd and almost childish show of weakness.

The administration’s only possible avenue of success in an immediate sense would be to broker some kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.  They are, quite literally, desperate. (And the simultaneous failure of their domestic agenda makes them yet more so.)

Which has led them to get it all backwards.  The truth is that the requirement for  Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is the single most important aspect of a peace agreement.  All the rest pale by comparison.  They are details, as Abbas (though not Obama or Kerry) well knows.

Without formal recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, any agreement could be construed by the Palestinians as what is known in Islamic literature as a hudna, a temporary ceasefire in preparation for the greater war, in this case driving Israel into the sea as Arabs nations have repeatedly attempted since 1948.

I rather doubt that Obama or Kerry knows that term, and I’d be yet more surprised if they have spent even five minutes on the MEMRI website that translates Arab television, vividly documenting the unending Jew hatred of the Arab world, inculcated literally from birth.

But they do — and here’s the irony in Obama’s case — have the traditional white man’s view of that same Arab world — to wit, Arabs are crazy and primitive. (Yes, this is racist. And, in Obama’s case, undoubtedly leavened with a soupçon of anti-imperialist payback.)  Ergo, pressure can only be put on Israel.  This is not unique to the Obama administration.  As was reported in the Jerusalem Post Monday:

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin told Israel Radio that Kerry’s remarks represented a pattern that had developed over the past 20 years, in which the international community finds it easier to pressure Israel rather than the Palestinians, despite who it believes is in the right.

So Kerry and Obama don’t treat Arabs like grown-ups, demanding of them the same responsibility they would immediately of a Western European country.  And of course if you treat someone like a child, they will behave like one.

In addition, to justify this prevarication, some wizards at the State Department have dredged up some documents signed by Yasser Arafat acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state, as if the signature of the deceased terrorist, who never had any intention of making peace with Israel in the first place, was relevant to the current situation.

So now, with the U.S. behaving like a “pitiful helpless giant” in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, we have the spectacle of college student Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas in a White House tete-a-tete with our president without the requisite preview interview with Jeffrey Goldberg to warn the kleptocrat Palestinian leader of any necessary compromises he might be asked for.  Just more demands for Israel.  How morally corrupt. How reprehensible.

(Artwork based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)