In the Obama administration’s waning days, global challenges to American interests abound. In Syria, which will be a bloody stain on the reputations of Barack Obama and John Kerry, the killing continues. The effort to free Mosul from ISIS is slowing. The rise of Iranian influence in the Gulf and the Levant, of China in Asia and the western Pacific, and of Putin’s Russia in both Europe and the Middle East, all continue. One might have thought any of these could be the subject of a final address by the president or the secretary of state.
But one would have been wrong. John Kerry delivered what is probably the last major speech of the Obama administration Wednesday, and its subject was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and especially the growth of Israeli settlements. So the Obama administration ends where it began: obsessed with Israelis and Palestinians as if their struggle were the key to peace in the entire region, and with construction of homes in settlements and in Jerusalem as if it were the major roadblock to a peace agreement.
In a speech that was remarkable for its length, its defensive and even whiny tone, its attack on the government of Israel, a
nd for its lack of new ideas, Kerry tried to explain both last week’s failure to veto a UN Security Council resolution and eight years of failed Obama policy. His central argument was that the two-state solution is essential, is possible, and is being destroyed by Israeli settlements. The administration did not veto the resolution, he said, because it was balanced: It rebuked Israel for settlement expansion but also rebuked the Palestinians for incitement.
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