It is certainly true that to make nasty remarks about, let alone threats against, Sec. of State John Kerry is beyond the pale and, to boot, counerproductive. That said, it also true that it becomes easy to squelch debate about Kerry’s Israel-Palestinian initiative by calling critiques of his policies “personal.”
To be sure, it is not yet known precisely what his policies are. But a lot has been leaked, and, beyond that, since when is it is the role of a third country to dictate to Israel or to the Palestinians what the terms of an agreement between them ought to be? Who, after all, has to live with the agreement? Who suffers if it fails? Not the American secretary of state.
If, for example, John Kerry says that boycotts of Israel will multiply if his current peace effort fails, it is not a personal attack to say that he is blaming Israel in advance for the failure of the talks. It is not a personal attack to say that the fact that Kerry himself opposes boycotts of Israel, and has always opposed boycotts of Israel, is irrelevant to his raising the subject in advance of the talks’ conclusion. If Economy Minister Naftali Bennett says that Kerry has “amplified” the boycott movement, this is not a personal attack. It is a response to remarks that Kerry chose to make.
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The fault here is on both sides: on the side of a Knesset Member, for comparing Kerry to Nebuchadnezzar, which surely qualifies as a personal attack; and on the side of Kerry, for speaking in a way that invites blame on Israel. To critique either side is not a personal attack.
It is a slippery slope to make a big deal out of personal attacks — one would think that a person in the august position of secretary of state could take them — because free speech, on all sides, about the fate of nations is critical to the ultimate success of a peace effort.
One can only wonder: Did the offensive attack that Kerry is over his head in regard to Israel’s security elicit formal responses from the State Dept. (and other American officials) because the attack, in fact, cuts too close to the truth for comfort?
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