John Kerry's Hubris

Like some previous secretaries of state, John Kerry would love to coax Israel and the Palestinians into a two-state peace deal. Just imagine what this would mean for his legacy in future history books, to say nothing about the lure of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Too bad, however, that the stars are not aligned for such a script. And won't for the foreseeable future.

Palestinians continue to lack courageous leaders willing to settle for half a loaf instead of clinging to insistence on erasing the Jewish state from the Middle East. Hamas makes no bones about it and Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement would achieve the same result by settling for nothing less than a "right of return" to Israel of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Kerry, however, sees the glass as half full. In fact, as the latest innocent abroad when it comes to Mideast diplomacy, he went so far as to issue a warning to American Jews that Israel has only two options -- peace on his terms, urgent but doable, or a dark future of never-ending violence. His way or the highway.

To underscore his eagerness, Kerry traveled to Israel and the West Bank in March, in April, and again in May. And he's ready to pack his bags again.

But first, in a remarkable speech to the American Jewish Committee, he engaged in a head-shaking display of astounding hubris. Not only did he push for a two-state solution, but his optimism literally runneth over that it's eminently achievable. And doable on his watch.

And only on his watch. Depicting himself as a 30-year cheerleader for Israel, Kerry declared that "what happens in the coming days will actually determine what happens in the coming decades. We're running out of time. If we do not succeed now, we may never get another chance. The status quo is not sustainable. This time, it actually has to be."

And what does he offer as evidence for his hurry-up peacemaking timetable? Well, the Arab League sent representatives to Washington to add a new sweetener to their peace plan. Instead of demanding a complete Israeli withdrawal from all territories Israel captured in the 1967 war, they would be willing to accept a few minor land swaps. And Kerry seized it and bought into it.

No mention, however, of the poison pills in the same Arab League peace plan -- opening the gates for a return to Israel of millions of Palestinians via a "right of return" that Abbas vows never to give up. Plus a redivided Jerusalem.

Kerry, however, has got the peacemaking bug. In spades. Unfortunately, wishful thinking is a poor guide to navigate the treacherous waters of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What Kerry lacks is a dose of cold realism.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers