Kerry’s Gaza truce burdened by past shortcomings in US policy

By Jo Biddle ,AFP

WASHINGTON — Waning U.S. influence and John Kerry’s failed peace bid are hampering efforts to reach a Gaza truce, but America remains the sole power capable of brokering a deal to stop the fighting, analysts said. Amid an unfortunate Arab power vacuum caused by Egypt’s internal political upheavals, any cease-fire between Israel and Hamas still remains days away with neither side yet ready to bend, experts predicted. Late Monday, Gaza came under renewed sustained Israeli fire with the Palestinian death toll in 21 days of warfare soaring above 1,060. Kerry was hit by tide of vitriol in the Israeli press Monday only hours after he returned from a week-long Middle East mission, during which he camped out in Cairo, with little more than a one-off 12-hour truce to show for his intense diplomatic efforts. The U.S. secretary of state and his team insisted they were still hard at work, but as Kerry said his bid had been scuppered by “misunderstandings” they appear to have scaled back hopes of a seven-day truce, to allow time for broader negotiations, to a more modest goal of a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire to get medicines and supplies into Gaza. “I think we have days more of this. Barring some kind of fundamental shift, neither side has the desire or capacity to stand down,” said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. diplomat and veteran of Middle East peace-making efforts. The U.S. pushed back against the Israeli press that labeled Kerry a “bull-in-a-china shop” and an “amateur who thinks he can solve the world’s problems with his presence alone.” Deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken insisted: “Let me say this about Secretary Kerry. Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender. No one has done more to help Israel achieve a secure and lasting peace.”

Sabotage? Washington also hinted at a campaign to deliberately sabotage Kerry’s efforts after a confidential draft of what they called “a discussion paper” setting out ideas for a cease-fire was leaked to the Israeli press. The leak was “an effort to misinform or was just misinformed,” Blinken said. But U.S. policy in the Middle East has been hampered for years by a belief that Washington was moving away from serious peace-making efforts, and has been further blighted by the Obama administration’s perceived mishandling of the war in Syria, including walking away from a threatened strike on the regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles.