Senator John Kerry, whose influence on foreign policy will be weakened in the new Congress, is visiting Israel after a tour in Lebanon and Syria – declared enemies of Israel – and Turkey, which he advised to repair ties with Jerusalem.
Sen. Kerry is chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee in the upper house of Congress, but the Republican revolution in last week’s elections will force him to deal with hawkish Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who will chair the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Relations.
After arriving in Turkey, the senator admitted that the House of Representatives “will be more ready to say [to Iran], put up or shut up. There are people in there who will not hesitate to say, ‘prepare the military option.’”
“It is very important for Israel and Turkey to renew their relations to get back to where we were. Turkey can play a critical role in helping us and others to reduce the tension in the Middle East,” he said in a report in the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zayman. He added, “Turkey can play a key role in respect to Syria and Lebanon.”
Turkey has distanced itself from Israel the past two years and jumped on board with the Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah axis. Relations went from bad to worse after the Turkish IHH flotilla clash last May 31, when nine terror activists were killed after assaulting Israeli Navy commandos who kept the vessel from reaching Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Sen. Kerry has been a frequent visitor to Syria, classified by the United States as a country that supports terror but which U.S. President Barack Obama has tried to “engage” in the diplomatic process. Jeffrey Feltman, a senior Obama administration official who has been trying to engage Syria, stated last week, “Syria’s friends are undermining stability in Lebanon….There is a cost to the potential in our bilateral relationship to what Syria’s friends are doing in Lebanon.”
“The window of opportunity for regional peace is shrinking and is beginning to close,” Sen. Kerry told Israel’sPresident Shimon Peres. He did not bring any new messages –at least not publicly – and instead made oft-stated promises of “security for all sides” in the Middle East.
President Peres told him, “It is not surprising there are difficulties, but we will work patiently or this hope [for peace] will be a mistake.”