It must be something in the water at the State Department — every secretary sooner or later develops an insatiable yearning to be the guy or gal who finally unlocked the secret to Middle East peace. Now Kerry has the peace process bug.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a news conference Wednesday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press) President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

The State Department spokeswoman did her best to lower expectations. (“His diplomacy will be based on what he hears from the parties”), but it was hard to conceal what a fruitless endeavor this is. Indeed, it is downright bizarre that while North Korea is saber-rattling, the Syrian war sends reverberations through the region, Egypt’s president has cracked down on criticism and Iraq sinks into sectarian chaos, Kerry would be spending his time on this. I mean, doesn’t he have productive things to do with his time?

It would be one thing if Kerry actually went at the problem smartly, taking the Palestinians to task for violence in the West Bank (this time in protest over the death of a Palestinian in Israeli prison) or urging the Palestinian Authority to hold elections. He might make clear that Fatah’s pact with Hamas makes any progress with Israel impossible. But instead, one suspects, this will be the same useless exercise — nagging Israel to commit to some settlement pause in return for something the PA should be doing anyway (negotiating). At least the State Department let on that Kerry isn’t coming with a plan of his own (i.e. to shove a plan down the Israelis’ throat). Is this all to distract from his need to swing by Turkey to plead with its president to at least appear interested in getting along with Israel after President Obama wrung an apology out of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

You would think that with South Korea nervous and our Asian allies unhinged by the North Korean threats we might send our secretary there, as a show of solidarity. The Post reports that “fear spread to South Korea’s stock market, which sustained its biggest daily fall of the year. The South’s defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, said the North had moved an intermediate-range missile to its eastern coast, perhaps for testing or drills.”

Our obsession with what is not central to our critical security issues conveys unseriousness to our allies and foes. It also fritters away what remaining stature and international capital we still have. The only redeeming feature to this latest peace process endeavor is that the president, as he said in Israel, has given no sign he wants to invest his time on that insoluble situation. So why doesn’t his underling do the same?