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The worst foreign policy team ever?

We’ve made the point that President Obama, like any president, is ultimately responsible for his foreign policy. This is especially true in this administration because virtually all policy-making (or policy-avoidance) is centered in the Oval Office. But this does not mean the president’s advisers are immune from criticism. To the contrary, the Obama national security team is arguably the worst in history.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is widely disparaged on the Hill and by national security insiders. His statement in his confirmation hearing that he wouldn’t be making policy turns out to be true.

Then there is Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who previously suggested an intifada would occur and the boycott movement would intensify if Israel did not make peace. He has struck again, suggesting Israel would become an “apartheid state” if it didn’t make peace. This outrageous comment was flawed in two respects.

First, who is in the way of peace here? The Palestinian Authority walked away from the table and is now (again) in league with Hamas. Calls for the U.S. to cut off aid to the PA as required by law are increasing once again. Several lawmakers raised the subject last week; today Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined them. How then can Israel “make peace” when confronted with a terrorist unity government? Perhaps Kerry should stop insulting and threatening the Jewish state and start working on penalties for the PA. The PA not only left talks and is trying to gain recognition unilaterally via international organizations, but it also chose the unity government over the peace process

In fact, cutting off aid to the PA is not wise given its anti-terrorism cooperation with Israel. A knowledgeable former U.S. official tells Right Turn:  “Abbas will say Hamas is not in the government because he’ll have a non-party government of technocrats. But those will be fellow-travelers, including some selected by Hamas. We should say we will cut off American aid to any entity — any ministry, for example — headed by an individual who is not committed to the three Quartet principles: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and respect for all previously signed agreements,” he explained. “That way we will at least be insisting that all Palestinian officials must be pledged to peace.”

Moreover, the accusation that Israel now or ever has been akin to South Africa is belied by the facts. Suggesting that Israel operates a system of racist segregation and repression of blacks in South Africa is the sort of language regularly used by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize Israel. In condemning the comment, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement: “It is startling and deeply disappointing that a diplomat so knowledgeable and experienced about democratic Israel chose to use such an inaccurate and incendiary term. We appreciate Mr. Kerry’s deep concern for Israel and his desires to ensure that it have a future of peace and security. Even if he used the repugnant language of Israel’s adversaries and accusers to express concern for Israel’s future, it was undiplomatic, unwise and unfair. Such references are not seen as expressions of friendship and support.”

More vociferously, the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel declared:

Secretary Kerry’s musings on the Jewish state’s dire future have become a regular feature of his public remarks. His latest prediction follows other statements in recent months that have in effect threatened Israel — never the Palestinians — with a list of disasters should his diplomatic efforts fail: violence, isolation, delegitimization, boycotts — and now “apartheid.”
It is no longer enough for the White House to clean up after the messes John Kerry has made. It is time for John Kerry to step down as Secretary of State, or for President Obama to fire him. And it would go a long way toward repairing the damage Kerry has done if his predecessor as Secretary of State, who is the likely Democratic Party nominee for president, explained why this kind of rhetoric had no place in her State Department and why it will have no place in her presidential campaign.

Taking a more restrained position, the Republican Jewish Coalition dubbed Kerry’s remarks “inflammatory and inaccurate and called on the president to clarify whether the comment reflected U.S. Policy. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the comment “offensive and inappropriate” and reminded the administration that Israel is a democracy and includes Arabs in the Knesset and on its highest court.

It is unlikely that Obama, who mused that the United States might not be able to defend Israel if it didn’t make peace, will can Kerry. Obama rarely fires anyone. Unfortunately, he also prefers to surround himself with third-rate advisers who make his foreign policy even less coherent than it already is.