Is this more of that “smart diplomacy” we’ve heard so much about?
The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.
“It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Her comments were echoed by the White House, where officials said they were disappointed by Israeli reports that cast Kerry’s efforts to negotiate a cease-fire as more favorable to Hamas.
“Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender than John Kerry,” said Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. He said the criticism of Kerry was based on “people leaking things that are either misinformed or attempting to misinform.”
Does an ally try to impose a cease-fire when its friend is making good progress in defeating terrorists? That’s what the U.S. is doing to Israel right now. Does an ally try to force its friend back to indefensible borders? That’s what President Obama has been doing to Israel for years.
The U.S. is angry over reports that are being written in Israeli media. Would the U.S. want Israel’s government to stifle the independent media?
As Kerry returned from the region over the weekend, Israeli media commentators leveled almost nonstop criticism of his attempts to bring Qatar and Turkey — two countries viewed by Israel as strong Hamas supporters — into the cease-fire negotiations. Kerry was also accused of abandoning some of Israel’s key demands during the negotiations, including demilitarizing Gaza.
In trying to implement the cease-fire over the weekend, “U.S. Secretary of State of State John Kerry ruined everything,” wrote columnist Ari Shavit in Monday’s Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper. “Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a ‘strategic terrorist attack.’”
Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman of “promise of hashtag” infamy, doesn’t seem to understand how real diplomacy works.
U.S. officials disputed the notion that Kerry had formally presented a proposal and cast the document in question as a draft given to the Israelis as part of an effort to gain their input in seeking a weeklong cessation of hostilities. Officials said the draft was based on an earlier Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel had accepted but Hamas had rejected.
Psaki said the U.S. was “surprised and obviously disappointed” to see the draft proposal made public. She also argued that there was a difference between the characterization of Kerry’s handling of the negotiations by Israeli media and what government officials were telling the U.S. privately.
“No one is calling to complain about the secretary’s handling of the situation,” Psaki said.
Right. They’re showing the world what you’d planned as a way of protesting it without having to call you up and directly, formally protest it. That’s a mild protest that signals displeasure but does not put the alliance itself at risk. Israel will call up a few steps from now, if it sees Kerry continuing to act against Israel’s interests.
Psaki and her sidekick, Marie Harf, continue to show why it’s inadvisable to put campaign operatives in charge of diplomacy. Their attack and respond style just is not suitable to the job of managing America’s alliances and less amicable relationships around the world.