One year ago, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, former Ambassador Martin Indyk and, in the background, President Barack Obama, set out on the latest quest to bring peace to the Israelis and Palestinians. Like so many others (including the architects of Oslo Accords 20 years ago), they failed. And now, even if the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas finally holds, the Americans will get no credit.
Learning nothing from history, the would-be peace brokers forgot that the first rule for peace-makers, inspired by the Hippocratic Oath for doctors, is “first, do no harm.” Instead, as a result of their arrogance and ineptness, millions of Israelis are being targeted in waves of missile barrages, while Palestinians in Gaza are hit in counterattacks against the concrete bunkers where the weapons are stored, below houses, schools and mosques.
When, after seven months, the negotiations reached the predictable impasse, and it was clear that the confidence building moved in only one direction, Israel stopped further releases. Palestinians prisoners began a hunger strike as part of an international campaign to pressure Israel. This campaign was pursued in coordination with a network of pro-Palestinian nongovernmental organizations claiming to promote human rights, and largely funded by the European Union and individual governments. But Israel withstood this pressure.
Following the failure of the diplomatic strategy, via Kerry and Indyk, to free more terrorist “heroes,” Hamas seized the opportunity to act, and after aborted attempts, succeeded in kidnapping and killing Gil-ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel. Brutality led to brutality, with the kidnapping and murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir.
The bloodshed then spiraled quickly, as Hamas and its allies expanded the violence by launching massive rocket attacks targeting Israeli cities.
As in the previous Arab-Israeli wars, there are many lessons to be learned, although it appears that the eager peacemakers are unable to see them. If, in contrast to Indyk and Kerry, there are diplomats capable of learning from history, the most important point is to recognize the huge cost of failure. Like doctors, who deal with life and death on an individual level, political leaders who deal with fates of nations must be bound by the terms of the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.”