John Kerry'sHamas-friendly ceasefire plan exposes his incompetence to all
It takes a special type of talent to unite Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Saudis, Egypt and pretty much everyone except Hamas, Turkey and Qatar. The type of talent that mixes incompetence with jaw-dropping arrogance.
The talent, in other words, of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry.
It is possible - just - on one reading of the 18 months since he assumed office to ascribe the failure of the peace process to a well-intentioned naivety in Mr Kerry.
It's a thin argument. Of all the people in the world who should not be naïve, the US Secretary of State would be top. But there are some who make that case.
No longer. The ceasefire draft put forward last week by Mr Kerry is so malign in intent towards Israel, so ruinous towards the PA and so craven in its de facto support for Hamas that only two conclusions are possible. Either Mr Kerry intends to harm Israel or he is completely out of his depth.
Kerry's plan was malign towards Israel and ruinous for the PA
The US is in theory committed to Israel's security. On the level of aid that remains true.
But look at the ceasefire plan. No mention of removing Hamas's rockets or tunnels. No mention of demilitarisation. Instead, an entrenched Hamas and a demand that Israel lifts its blockade of Gaza - accepting Hamas's narrative that its terror is a response to the blockade rather than vice versa. Astonishingly, Hamas is treated on the same basis as Israel, as a legitimate representative body speaking for the Palestinians rather than as a terrorist group proscribed by the US which seized control through a coup and which uses aid - including from the US - to fund its terror against a supposed US ally.
The draft was not so much for a ceasefire as for an Israeli, PA and US capitulation to Hamas's demands. Effectively destroying the PA, it could have been drawn up by Khaled Mashaal.
And no plan was even necessary. Israel had already accepted an Egyptian proposal.
There's a pattern here. It is not as if the US State Department is suddenly devoid of anyone who understands the Middle East. The problem - this is a theme that has been heard from many sources - is that Mr Kerry is such an egomaniac that he simply ignores all of them. He knows best.
Last week's events lend credence to the Israelis' spin in March, when the peace talks with the PA collapsed, that Kerry had ruined the entire process by lying to both sides about each others' positions. He simply didn't understand what he was doing, they said.
It's back to those two explanations again. Either he is a blundering fool who is so far out of his depth as to be a serious danger. Or he does know what he is doing - which is even worse.
Look at how he reacted to the Israelis' (and PA's) rejection of his plan. In Paris immediately afterwards, he chose to speak only to Turkey and Qatar. That's Turkey, whose government (backed by Hamas) says Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and that Netanyahu is ten times worse than Hitler; and Qatar, which is now Hamas's main funder.
Speak to the PA or Egypt? Or…Israel? As if.
One of the few positive things to have emerged in recent weeks has been the de facto alliance of Israel, Egypt, the PA, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Mr Kerry has single-handedly destroyed that promise. He has made clear that in the US' eyes, Hamas is the legitimate representative of the Palestinians and that the Palestinian Authority is not even worth talking to - because the PA was ignored throughout.
This matters not just because his actions have made a ceasefire less, not more, likely, but because Israel, Egypt, the PA, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates now regard him as at best an incompetent buffoon and at worst a liar. And the implications of his pandering to Turkey and Qatar are simply horrifying.