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Peace groups should criticize Kerry too

The fact that Israeli and American right-wingers are attacking Secretary Kerry should not make him immune to criticism from within the peace camp.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. (State Dept. Photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. (State Dept. Photo)

Troubling reports have been coming out of the Israeli-American-Palestinian negotiations in recent weeks. According to Israeli and Palestinian media, Secretary of State Kerry’s initiative appears to be growing less ambitious with each passing day. The goal to get the two parties to agree on an outline for a final status agreement was abandoned long ago. Now, the Israelis and Palestinians are waiting on an American peace offer, which also seems to have been gradually demoted. What at first was presented as a comprehensive solution that Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas would have to accept as is or reject outright, eventually became a framework and now it has become a paper intended only  to allow the continuation of negotiations for another full year.

Details of the proposal itself give further reason for concern. Numerous reports have stated that Kerry has basically accepted Netanyahu’s demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which has serious implications on the rights of Palestinians inside Israel; that a Palestinian right to East Jerusalem will only be mentioned and not recognized; that Israel will be absolved of any responsibility for the refugee problem; and there are rumors that the ratio for land swaps won’t be 1:1, meaning Israel will be allowed to annex territory beyond the 1967 borders without giving the Palestinians territory equal in size and quality.

Read +972 Magazine’s full coverage of the diplomatic process

If true, this proposal seems to be tailored to suit the political needs of Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners. No credible Palestinian leader can accept those terms; Abbas is likely to say no, and even if he can be persuaded or bullied into signing such a deal, he won’t be able to implement it. The occupation, in all likelihood, will not end.

Netanyahu, whose political strategy is all about maintaining the status quo, will score a major victory. The American proposal will be too vague to really hurt him politically. In any case, the negotiations will drag on and on and the implementation phase will be long enough that he won’t be forced to actually do anything, let alone evacuate major settlements (which of course is the heart of the matter and the only true litmus test for his political intentions).

In fact, the Israeli prime minister is likely to emerge as the winner regardless of the Palestinian response: if Abbas says yes, international pressure on Israel will be lessened and his government will receive all the benefits – from recognition to financial aid – of an agreement, but without actually doing much. And if Abbas rejects the American plan, as some reports suggest he intends to, Netanyahu will blame “Arab rejectionism” for missing out on another “generous offer.” This is probably the best outcome as far as Bibi and his right-wing coalition partners are concerned.

There is an inherent inequality in the process that the American negotiators have failed to address. The real trade-off in an agreement is land for legitimization; Israel is paying with land for the legitimacy it would receive for ending the occupation and signing treaties with the Palestinians and other Arab states. The problem is that the Palestinians begin to pay as soon as they enter the talks, while Israel is required to evacuate land only long after the deals are signed. This is why Israel’s interest will always be to negotiate forever – enjoying the legitimization of the peace process while not giving up the land, or more – while continuing to create “facts on the ground,” which will need to be recognized in the next round of talks, and so on. Allowing Netanyahu to prolong the talks without committing to the process, as Kerry is currently doing, maintains this dynamic. Forcing the Palestinians to accept an impossible deal is even worse.

Many organizations and individuals that oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank display unequivocal support for the Kerry process. They do it for various reasons: many believe that due to the “special relationship” between Jerusalem and Washington the American administration is the only party capable of ending the occupation. Others think the Kerry initiative is “the only game in town,” or that it is “the last hope for a two-state solution.” In Israeli politics, no mainstream force can position itself to the left of an American administration. Finally, the Israeli Left has a tendency to deduce that because the Israeli far-right opposes Kerry – demonstrated in Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s attack on the secretary of state – that he must right.

Yet those same groups should understand the danger in an American plan so biased that it would force Abbas to reject it, or one that would completely discredit the Palestinian president. They should also understand the danger in accepting some of Netanyahu’s far reaching demands, such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state or pushing the Palestinian capital from East Jerusalem to Abu Dis or Issawiya, or the risk inherent in a prolonged process that would be accompanied by rapid settlement growth. The fact that Israeli and American right-wingers are attacking Secretary Kerry should not make him immune to criticism from within the peace camp. Life is not such a simple, zero-sum game. One can reject Ya’alon and criticize the secretary of state at the same time. If there are concerns, now is the time to speak up.

Ya’alon has been deriding Kerry for weeks
John Kerry’s attack on liberal democracy
‘Religion and politics’ in Israel: The mythology of Jewish nationalism

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    1. Giora Me'ir

      The so-called peace talks have been a disaster for the Palestinians. But they brought it on themselves by agreeing to talks without a settlement freeze. Now Kerry’s is so desperate for some achievement that doesn’t jeopardize him politically, that he’s caving to Netanyahu on one main point after another.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      I feel that people on the extreme left, like Noam, are really afraid that any deal is ever struck since it would deprive them of their ability to insist on their ideal outcome which is to end Israel. In other words, the end of Israel for them is more important than peace and security will ever be.

      As such, it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they join with their fellow fanatics on the Israeli extreme far-right and the Palestinian rejectionists in seeking to derail any possible deal. The Israeli extreme far-right is afraid a state of Palestine will be born. The Israeli extreme-left and the Palestinian rejectionists are afraid that the State of Israel will survive and prosper.

      I’ve had discussions on forums like these for years and realized that discussing details with people on the extreme left is somewhat pointless. Pointing out to them that a Palestinian State can arise in 95% of the West Bank and could have its capital in Ramallah leads nowhere. You can make it 100% and throw in East Jerusalem and the core argument wouldn’t change. Nor does pointing out that the Palestinians in such an outcome would be infinitely better off than they are at present have any impact. They couldn’t give two figs about the Palestinians or a Palestinian State. In the end to the average poster or blogger on the extreme left the core belief is that Israel is entirely and infinitely in the wrong. Any and all concessions that the Palestinians make are not just unnecessary, but in their world, morally wrong. In fact, in their world, nothing short of the elimination of Israel is sufficient in order to set the world aright.

      This is why there really is no reason to ever take anything written by the extreme left against Kerry or the peace process seriously. Why would anyone listen to tips about achieving a solution from people who are fundamentally opposed to ever actually seeing one achieved?

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        I’m getting tired of replying to your posts because it seems to me your anti-left bias is too powerful for me to ever crack through it. But I will continue trying because you seem to be a decent enough fellow, if completely misguided.

        First of all – I consider myself to be an extreme leftist because the extreme circumstances in Israel force me to to take an extreme opposing position. Unlike your extreme rightist friends, my extremism isn’t based in ideology or religion, and is therefore reversible (as soon as the circumstances allow).

        Second, the extreme left doesn’t want to see Israel destroyed. Rather, they want to see Israel IMPROVED. That’s the key word. We want Israel to become a NORMAL country where things like occupation, apartheid, fear, hatred, war and terrorism are things of the past. In contrast, the extreme right wants all these things to go on forever.

        Third, you lump extreme leftists and rightists together, but it’s like night and day. Leftists are inherently moral people who apply the golden rule universally, while rightists do so selectively and exclusively – in their favor of course. The proof of this point is in the fact that even extreme rightists like you are welcome on this very web site, while if I posted my opinions on a rightist site I’d probably receive nothing but death wishes. The fact that you feel at home here should give you a moment’s pause for reflection, in my opinion.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          “Leftists are inherently moral people who apply the golden rule universally”

          They are also inherently modest and not at all delusional.

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        • Kolumn9

          I have a bias against the delusional, which are well-represented on this site.

          First of all, anyone who says their extremism is not based on ideology is lying through their teeth. That may strike you as a rather strong statement, but that is only because you have so internalized your ideology and biases that you don’t bother to think them through.

          Second, the extreme left wishes to see Israel eliminated. In their eyes this is justified and will lead to a wonderful outcome. So they see the current imperfect reality as an evil to be compared with the ideal outcome they have built in their minds. This isn’t particularly different with other episodes of leftist thinking where tens of millions of people were massacred in order to “IMPROVE” a system.

          Third, both extreme leftists and extreme rightists think they are inherently moral people. The extreme left, in the interest of universal utopia, is willing to massacre, cheat, lie and steal in order to achieve an ideal goal as they have defined it. Because they consider their goal to be ideal all actions necessary to achieve it are considered ethical and moral. The extreme right, in the interests of its specific utopia, is willing to massacre, cheat, lie and steal in order to achieve and ideal goal as they have defined it. Because they consider their goal to be ideal all actions necessary to achieve it are considered ethical and moral. There is no particular difference between the two extremes except in their delusions of what is ideal. In practical terms both tolerate infinite amounts of objectively indefensible acts in pursuit of impossible goals. For both the end-goal justifies any means.

          The fact that I post here regularly only demonstrates that the site has chosen to avoid overt censorship, though my posts are quite often held up in moderation. Noam and 972mag are certainly more tolerant of dissent than some other leftist sites which would have banned me a long time ago (you know who I am talking about), but I wouldn’t go overboard in claiming tolerance among the extreme left. Also, if you think me an ‘extreme rightist’ you have spent way too much time avoiding rightist sites.

          Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            “The extreme left, in the interest of universal utopia, is willing to massacre, cheat, lie and steal in order to achieve an ideal goal as they have defined it.”

            This is nothing more than projection on your part. You have described here the right-wing as we see it – a greedy, lying, conniving, cheating, and on occasion murderous ideology. I don’t know any leftists who condone murder (and no, I don’t consider Sharon, Olmert or Livni to be leftists).

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            You know at least one leftist that condones murder. Larry Derfner on the other thread thinks that any Arab can legitimately walk up to me and blow my brains out. In Larry’s eyes the murderer would be innocent of any crime. So, no, it is not projection.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Oh, and were you paying attention to what the extreme left did in the Soviet Union, Cambodia and China?

            So, this entirely fair to describe their behavior:

            “The extreme left, in the interest of universal utopia, is willing to massacre, cheat, lie and steal in order to achieve an ideal goal as they have defined it.”

            Reply to Comment
    3. Richard Witty

      Lets see the plan, not speculate on what might be in it, then decide on if it meets Palestinian and Israeli needs.

      Thats what happens when the Israeli electorate, and particular liberal-left leadership, don’t put their weight into electoral efforts.

      They/we/they end up relying (and then condemning) the US, like children.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rehmat

      Israeli-born Glad Atzmon says Zionist regime is not interested in resolving Israel-Palestinian conflic. US-born Roger Tucker agrees with Gilad Atzmon; so do I.

      John Kerry is an AIPAC agent. His nomination was unanimously approved by the US Senate, while Hagel had to drop his pants to receive the Senate approval.

      On December 11, 2013, Jeffrey Goldberg, an Israeli concentration camp guard, who has turned into an American journalist and author, wrote a column at the Jewish Bloomberg.com, titled ‘John Kerry Is Israel’s Best Friend’. The article is based on John Kerry’s recent speech at the 10th annual Brookings Institute’s Saban Forum in Washington DC. The Forum is an Israeli advocacy tool establish by US-Israel Jewish billionaire Haim Saban.


      Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        Danny, how do you feel about being bedfellows with this poster?

        Reply to Comment
    5. M Gilbert

      In fact it’s the Palestinians who’ve won this round. Finally the hard men, the thugs of Zionism, have been forced to reveal much of their unyielding hand, their intransigence is clearly on display, the bantustan pittance they will offer the Palestinians is there for all the world to see.

      The Palestinians now surely understand that they will get nothing from any “peace effort” but the continuing theft of their land. The BDS movement will explode, the PLO will begin to drag Israel across international bodies, all with world wide support.

      Israel will be increasingly isolated, it’s brazen cries of victimization unheeded, save by the U.S., which will be compromised every day by its insensible fealty, imposed upon it by hasbara and The Lobby.

      In the end the angry hordes massing ion the West Bank and at nearly all Israel’s borders, with ever-improving weaponry, will overwhelm the nation, and make daily life in Israel an abominable horror.

      And with that, the twisted, cancer that has enveloped modern Zionism, will be put to rest. For this, sensible, contemporary Jews around the world can only say “amen.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. I recall Sari Nusseibeh’s suggestion of several years ago to hold a plebiscite in both nations, on the same day with a single yes/no question: shall representatives of both sides meet to begin final talks toward full resolution, to present a plan for ratification before the two peoples in (say) 9 months? The idea is to lock both sides into a mandate, assuming both vote yes. Frankly, while I can see Abbas agreeing to hold the plebiscite, I don’t think Bibi’s ruling coalition would go for it. The settlements have become a political industry, and I see no reason for them to rein themselves in without external factors.

      Apart from this, with the Gaza/Bank fracture how can any final status agreement be annealed? There is no administrated Palestinian people, but there is a Palestinian nationalism, and I fear that the latter may induce a crisis, weak agreement or failure. All the West can do is keep pumping money into the PA.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Steve Benassi

      Obama imposed UNSC’67 borders in December 2014, after November midterm elections, will be new starting point of negotiations.

      Reply to Comment