Kicking The Empty Can of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

Secretary of State Kerry has touched the third rail in the seemingly impossible task of

American diplomacy to bring peace to the Middle East. He used the word “apartheid” in

an off the record meeting of the Trilateral Commission in trying to warn that without a

two state solution Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state”. The uproar that followed

that statement was astonishingly ear piercing not in Israel but in the United States where

the neocon Emergency Committee for Israel demanded the resignation of the Secretary of

State while other Israeli supporters, in and out of Congress, excoriated Kerry, who found

himself compelled to issue a lukewarm statement of regret. In Israel, Premier Netanyahu

did not have to comment. After cashing in the unanimous vote of his cabinet to suspend

peace talk following the announcement that Fatah and Hamas had signed a preliminary

reconciliation agreement, the Israeli premier was able to chalk up another success in

his firmly rooted strategy to buy time to allow Israel’s expansion through new waves of

settlements and the pursuit of its plans for annexation of a large swath of Palestine. The

faux pas of the Secretary of State allowed the Israeli leader to consolidate his rightist

coalition which in turn will make it possible for him to maintain power for as long as

he wants. The strategy of West Bank land grabs has been denounced internationally as

it not only violates international law, and innumerable U.N. resolutions, but it fuels the

Palestinian sense of injustice for half century of Israeli occupation. Just like the term

“apartheid state”, the definition of occupied territories is spurned by the Israeli supporters

and numerous lobbies. Will Secretary Kerry end up as a pariah among the majority

of American Jews, just like the former President Jimmy Carter who sounded the first

warning in 2006 book with his book “Palestine: Peace or Apartheid”?

Secretary Kerry is not without supporters in his attempt to bring the parties together

to talk about a settlement of what is generally, and wrongly, called the Arab-Israeli

conflict. The results up to now explain in a perverse way why former Secretary Hillary

Clinton showed a distinct lack of commitment in pushing a clear sighted American

project for peace. Likewise, they explain the discouraging present day aloofness of

President Obama. On the opposite site, a group of former government advisors headed

by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has taken a position rebutting

the unabashed pro-Israel campaign in the United States. The group points out that no

Palestinian leader could ever agree to a peace accord that entails turning over the Jordan

Valley to Israel. Israel’s unrelenting strategy to annex the valley precludes a peace accord

that would end Israeli occupation. Brzezinski and his colleagues stress that the marginal

improvement in Israel’s security provided by the expansive Israeli demands “can hardly

justify the permanent subjugation and disenfranchisement of a people to which Israel

refuses to grant citizenship in the Jewish state”.

There are others, most notably the Jewish American organization named J Street, who

just as fervently advocate a stronger U.S. engagement to move the parties forward by

presenting a public framework that would lay out the U.S. – backed parameters for a

two state solution. The question that now arises is: will there ever be a Palestinian state?

Probably not, for a long time at least, until the day that Israeli themselves will understand

that serious negative consequences will come if negotiations fail. Israel will face growing

international isolation, boycotts, trade restrictions for goods manufactured in the occupied

territories and mounting diplomatic pressures with possible legal actions against it. The

BDS movement, as the boycott is called, has been opposed vociferously by the pro-Israeli

lobbies in the United States but marches on in Europe. The Israeli government, that has

suspended talks with the Palestinians in response to the reconciliation agreement between

Fatah and Hamas, has kicked the empty can of negotiations down the road. Only a firm

intervention by the United States could restart negotiations that Netanyahu clearly abhors.

But the Obama Administration continues as well with a policy of ambiguity and silence.

To his credit, John Kerry tried, very much on his own, to put pressure on the Israelis. It is

clear now that he failed. Israel has turned much of the West Bank into a single entity by

controlling not just the land but the underground aquifers. And finally, it has built a ring

of settlements that practically surround Jerusalem, denying the Palestinians their dream

of having a capital in East Jerusalem. In sum, it is not surprising that the Europeans

are going ahead with boycott and divestment unlike the United States government that

simply does not show the moral and political strength needed to persuade Israel to make

sacrifices for a future of peace.

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