It is interesting how one comment from an Israeli minister has managed to strain relations between the U.S. Administration and Israel, while fiery rhetoric and street demonstrations against Kerry and Obama in the Palestinian territories and Arab capitals are completely ignored by Washington.The U.S. Administration has reacted quickly and strongly to statements attributed to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. Ya'alon was quoted by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot as describing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as "messianic and obsessive."
In response, the U.S. condemned Ya'alon's comments as "offensive and inappropriate."
Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon greets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Israel, May 2013. (Image source: U.S. State Department)
Palestinian officials representing various organizations, including the Palestinian Authority, have been denouncing Kerry almost on a daily basis over the past few weeks. But these condemnations do not seem to bother the State Department.
Among the officials who have been extremely critical of Kerry's role in the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is Yasser Abed Rabbo, the PLO's Secretary-General and one of the closest advisors to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Just last month, Abed Rabbo launched a scathing attack on Kerry, denouncing his latest proposals as unacceptable. "Kerry does not have the right to decide where our borders will be," the top PLO official said. "If the U.S. wants, it can give parts of California or Washington to Israel. Kerry's framework agreement is very dangerous."
Abed Rabbo has also accused Kerry of seeking to "appease Israel by fulfilling its expansionist demands in the Jordan Valley under the pretext of security. He wants to buy Israeli silence over the Iran deal (with the six big powers)."
Palestinian officials have also been leaking details about Kerry's latest proposals for reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Some have gone as far as accusing Kerry of being biased in favor of Israel, working toward "liquidating" the Palestinian cause and trying to extort the Palestinians.
Tayseer Khaled, member of the PLO Executive Committee, was recently quoted as accusing Kerry of trying to extort the Palestinians politically. Khaled's allegations have since been repeated by other Palestinians.
In addition, anti-Kerry demonstrations have become a common phenomenon in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At some of these protests, Kerry is often condemned as a pawn in the hands of Israel.
At another protest in Ramallah, Palestinians chanted, "Oh Kerry, you coward, you have no room in Palestine."
In Bethlehem several weeks ago, Palestinians took to the streets to protest against Kerry's visit to the city. And when President Barack Obama visited Bethlehem last year, Palestinians hurled shoes at his portrait and chanted, and set fire to his photograph.
Anti-Kerry protests have also taken place in Egypt and Jordan, where protesters also torched his portrait and declared him persona non grata.
Why, then, Kerry is not just as offended by the Arab condemnations?
It is interesting to see how one comment from an Israeli minister has managed to strain relations between the U.S. Administration and Israel, while fiery rhetoric and street demonstrations against Kerry and Obama in the Palestinian territories and Arab capitals are completely ignored by Washington. If Kerry really cares about the peace process, he also needs to ask the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments to lower the tone and stop inciting against him and the U.S. Unless, of course, those statements and protests do not offend him.