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US President Barack Obama picked John Kerry as his new secretary of state at the end of January to succeed Hillary Clinton.
Clinton left office after several years of service, during which the Arab world witnessed many political changes and shifts.
After announcing his choice, Obama praised Kerry, saying: “Few people such as Kerry know so many presidents or prime ministers who are familiar with the foreign policy as he does, and this makes him a suitable candidate to lead the US diplomacy in the coming years.”
Israel’s annoyance and concern over Kerry’s appointment to this very important position — which some analysts dubbed the position of US prime minister — was clear and obvious to one and all.
Kerry’s stances are contrary to Israel’s policy, in some aspects, vis-a-vis the Palestinian cause, particularly on issues such as Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He has also built good relations with Arab countries through his frequent visits over the past two years since Arab Spring revolutions began.
The Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot carried statements of some Israeli officials on Kerry. One of them said: “It is true that Kerry is a friend of Israel, but he is not like other Americans who show their supportive attitudes and solidarity with Israel in the (US) Senate. His stand on the Palestinian issue is clearly against Israel’s policy and his criticism of the settlements is very acute.”
The reason for Israel’s concern perhaps stemmed from its fear that Kerry’s first assignment in the region would be to help resove Palestinians’ internal conflict and the peace process, and possibly pressure Israel to restart the deadlocked peace talks.
There are expectations in some quarters that Kerry’s visit to Palestine and Israel this month after his phone calls this week to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will aim at coordinating efforts to resume the stalled negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
In 2009, Hamas welcomed Kerry’s visit to Gaza to determine the devastation caused by Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and this had angered the Jewish state.
And Kerry’s stance towards the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and his meetings with their leaders in Cairo more than once have not only raised Israelis ire, but also prompted the (Jewish Press) website to describe him as “Obama’s envoy to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood”.
Hamas and Israel had signed a truce last November to end the war on the Gaza Strip, for which Egypt led by President Mohammed Mursi and the US had exerted tremendous efforts.
Therefore, some observers expect that Kerry would keep up the pressure on the Hamas government through President Mursi, and in collaboration with Khaled Mesha’al, to force Hamas to change its policy and support the resumption of negotiations with Israel.
In the coming period, footsteps are likely to be heard to speed up efforts to resolve the Palestinians’ internal disagreements - not only for the Palestinians themselves but also for Israel in terms of security.
We should not show much optimism about the role John Kerry could perform on the Palestinian issue, the logical reason being the US foreign policy cannot be free from the influence of the Zionist lobby that controls it.
However, other observers see that the role Kerry played when he was head of the Foreign Relations Committee in Congress, and relations he developed with the entire spectrum of the opposition in Arab Spring countries, in particular with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, could probably help the US Department of State leave its mark as it strives to achieve stability and security in the entire region.