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The blame game, then the shame game

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian leaders prepared their constituencies for the eventual historic change should Kerry have been successful. On the contrary, Netanyahu applied every trick up his sleeve to play the blame game, diverting maximum blame onto the Palestinians.

By Ilan Baruch

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

In his speech in Jerusalem a year ago, President Obama told us peace in the Middle East is an American interest. He also called us to generate political pressure which will motivate our government to take serious strides toward peace. Secretary Kerry launched his peace initiative, exceedingly invested time and political currency in it and tightly sealed it from any media. Sadly, it is grounded. Wednesday April 29th, the final date allocated to the parties to produce a framework for final status negotiations, is gone and with it the expired exercise in diplomacy without statesmanship.

Most spectators were skeptical right from day one. The very basic ingredients were missing when it comes to credibility. In the negotiations room there were two parties, one with nothing to offer. The other had no interest in taking part in it in the first place, but for the sake of maintenance of its relations with the U.S. Palestine has given up on 78 percent of its historic territory and the Netanyahu government is aiming to annex 60 percent of the 22 percent of historic Palestine, which the entire world regards as occupied Palestinian territory. Public opinion on both sides was skeptical. No one prepared their constituencies for the eventual historic change which was on the charts, had Kerry been successful. On the contrary, Netanyahu applied every trick up his sleeve to play the blame game, diverting maximum blame on the Palestinians once the Kerry Initiative is doomed.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

The Americans took a huge risk in launching this initiative. Their failure is far more dramatic than meets the eye. Firstly, it makes any future initiative brewed in Washington DC more difficult to launch. It probably gave the Oslo paradigm a kiss of death. It leaves us, Palestinians and Israelis alike, deprived of a hope to see a change in the foreseeable future, unless new fundamentals are introduced. Leaks from DC made it clear: Netanyahu ruined it. His boisterous show of commitment to peace was a façade for ideological commitments shared with his extremely hawkish government, and external pressures on the other. He spared no effort to generate a blame agenda against his Palestinian adversary, and at times against the Obama administration as well. The sole test for diplomatic success in Netanyahu’s eyes was to drive the blame squarely onto Abbas’s turf.

Where does it leave us? Stalemate is the desired state of affairs for Netanyahu. It allows continued and escalating encroachment of settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. More than 13,000 new flats were recorded under different stages of planning or construction while Kerry Initiative was underway. This means a boost of 60,000 new inhabitants, or a 10 percent increase in the settler population. But stalemate is the toxic environment in which violence sprouts and could escalate by dangerous proportions.

April 29th faded away unceremoniously, and so did the Kerry initiative. Kerry is taking a step back, prioritizing other diplomatic fronts. President Obama speaks on the Middle East off the cuff in Kuala Lumpur or Manila. Netanyahu and his hawks are probably rejoicing. But the next battle for Israel is already being fought far away from home. It is the psycho-political space of legitimacy, de-legitimization, counter-occupation diplomacy, and above all, the shame game of apartheid.

Kerry was quoted recently in a closed meeting, warning against the inevitability of Israel turning into an apartheid state if the two-state solution is aborted. Official Israel cried foul. Israel is not an apartheid state, for sure, and Kerry was obliged to issue statements of apology for his choice of words. However, in the West Bank we see manifestations of an apartheid-like regime, which are cause for grave concern. Like in South Africa, the population balance sheet in the West Bank shows five times more Palestinians than Israeli settlers. However, the Israelis perceive themselves as the majority which rightfully embraces the hegemony in every aspect of life. The Palestinians are under military rule and have no political say over their future. In every aspect of life, the security considerations in regards to settlers are paramount. Had the occupation been a temporary and transitional stage on the way to a negotiated solution, the stark differences in the treatment of Palestinians and Israelis could be tolerated. In June 2017 Israel will celebrate half a century of total control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This can take an ugly shape: the shame game. Advocacy against manifestations of apartheid in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would be aiming to enhance world awareness of the moral aspects of occupation. This is where Israel is vulnerable. This is where the Obama administration failed. The Kerry initiative fell prey to its own self-constraints in applying political pressure. In an exercise of blame denial, Israel is now destined to resort to shame denial. Apartheid South Africa did not survive that.

Ilan Baruch is a peace activist and a former Ambassador of Israel to South Africa.

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    1. Rab

      Mr. Baruch,

      Since Israel has declared sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, and since the majority of the new “settlement” construction announced during the negotiations was intended to be built in these Jerusalem neighborhoods, would you kindly explain how a former Israeli ambassador can refer to these areas as “settlements?” Don’t you accept your democratically elected government’s lawful decisions, particularly when supported by the state’s courts?

      Reply to Comment
      • Steve Zionheart

        Let’s all declare sovereignty over our neighbours back gardens – see where that gets us. If I declare sovereignty over my neighbour’s back garden can I start building chalets in it for my extended family to live in?

        Reply to Comment
        • Rab

          It’s a little more complex than that, isn’t it? After all, the part of Jerusalem we’re discussing had no sovereign since the Ottomans. There are legal scholars, such as Rostow, and Edmond Levy, who believe this land is Israel’s because of 1922 and Article 80 in the UN Charter.

          However, regardless of your views, the Israeli government did annex this land and the courts have treated it as Israel’s because of the annexation. If Mr. Baruch wishes to call the rest of Judea and Samaria’s Jewish communities “settlements,” that is his right, but Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods are a part of Israel. Calling them settlements is a very specific statement about Israel’s government and courts.

          Reply to Comment
          • Johnboy

            Rab: “It’s a little more complex than that, isn’t it?”

            No, not at all.

            Your original premise was this: “Since Israel has declared sovereignty over all of Jerusalem”

            But UNSCR242 reminds us that it is “emphasising the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.

            Which means that your original premise is false, since that unilateral declaration of annexation is “inadmissible”.

            Rab: “After all, the part of Jerusalem we’re discussing had no sovereign since the Ottomans.”

            Irrelevant to your original claim.

            Your original post posits that Israel can acquire sovereignty over Jerusalem merely by unilaterally annexing it.

            Again, that claim is “inadmissible”, precisely because Israel seized that city by force of arms.

            That’s not to say that Israel can’t acquire sovereignty over Jerusalem, but it does mean that Israel can’t acquire that sovereignty merely by seizing Jerusalem and then unilaterally declaring that it has annexed that city.

            That’s “the acquisition of territory by war”, and that’s “inadmissible”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rab

            Incorrect reading of UNSCR 242, the subtlety of which obviously escapes you. Israel certainly may acquire part of the territories it won in that defensive war.

            Reply to Comment
          • Samuel

            “But UNSCR242 reminds us that it is “emphasising the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”


            Yet in 1948, the Arabs acquired East Jerusalem by means of war. So perhaps, Johnboy, you agree that the Arabs can’t therefore claim ownership of East Jerusalem?

            Reply to Comment
          • Rab

            Yes, this is an interesting construct. It is very possible to apply that line about acquisition of territory during war to the Jordanians. If that’s the case, and the approach to this clause taken by some jurists regarding its applicability only in offensive wars, then it really only applies to Jordan in this case, not to Israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • Johnboy

            Rab:”Calling them settlements is a very specific statement about Israel’s government and courts.”

            Oh, isn’t that the truth…. indeed, it appears to be the only thing you got right in your entire post.

            Steve has it correct: the Knesset can declare that it is annexing the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, and the situation would be the same i.e. the Knesset would be claiming the right to legislate regarding territory where Israeli jurisdiction does not (and can not) be applied.

            That’s “illegal”, and the fact (and it is a fact) that the Israeli courts are complicit in that illegality does not magically make it “legal” – all it does is make a mockery of that court.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rab

            Oh, it’s not legal? Annexation is not a term in international law, to my knowledge. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

            This is amusing, though. You have expressed criticism of a two state solution in the past and now you’re also rejecting a single state solution.

            Let me guess…unless it’s an Arab state.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Johnboy

      Rab: “There are legal scholars, such as Rostow, and Edmond Levy, who”… both have a conflict of interest regarding a claim that is being advanced on behalf of “the state for the Jewish nation”, seein’ as how they were both fully-paid-up members of that “Jewish nation”.

      Rab: “However, regardless of your views, the Israeli government did annex this land and the courts have treated it as Israel’s because of the annexation.”

      Now might be a very good time to point out that Israel did NOT declare the annexation of any part of Jerusalem following the Six Day War.

      The administrative order claimed only that henceforth Israeli domestic law would be applied to all of Municipal Jerusalem.

      But that is “jurisdiction”, not “sovereignty”, and those are not at all one and the same thing.

      I’ll also note that Israel pulled the same trick with respect to the Golan Heights i.e. the Knesset passed legislation that said that henceforth Israeli domestic law (rather than IDF military orders) would be applied in the Golan.

      But, again, that’s “jurisdiction”, which is not at all the same as “sovereignty”.

      Think of it this way: in both cases Israel claimed the right to treat that territory *as* *if* Israel owned it, without once actually declaring that Israel **did** own it.

      It’s a subtle distinction, but most Israeli apologists wouldn’t know “subtle” if it was slapped across their face….

      Reply to Comment
      • Rab

        Well, those unnuanced hasbarists at B’Tzelem agree with me and not with you:


        “In June 1967, following the 1967 War, Israel annexed some 70 sq. km to the municipal boundaries of West Jerusalem, and imposed Israeli law there. These annexed territories included not only the part of Jerusalem that had been under Jordanian rule, but also an additional 64 square kilometers…Following their annexation, the area of West Jerusalem tripled, and Jerusalem became the largest city in Israel.”

        Not enough for you? The Awad case (1988) has the High Court specifically noting the annexation of Jerusalem in its language.

        Still not enough? The Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel states: “1. Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”

        Want more? Yoram Dinstein, prominent Israeli professor of law (headed TAU’s law school) declares in his book, “The International Law of Belligerent Occupation” on page 18 that there’s no doubt that the Basic Law: Jerusalem uses language that leaves no doubt Jerusalem has been annexed and adds that High Court rulings have confirmed this status.

        And a little bit more: Here is Begin’s letter to Sadat proclaiming ownership over all of Jerusalem: http://muqtafi.birzeit.edu/InterDocs/images/275.pdf (Birzeit University, another Hasbarist source).

        And finally, in case you have doubts about what is encompassed in section 1 Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Israeli government helpfully modified it with paragraph 5:

        5. The jurisdiction of Jerusalem includes, as pertaining to this basic law, among others, all of the area that is described in the appendix of the proclamation expanding the borders of municipal Jerusalem beginning the 20th of Sivan 5727 (June 28, 1967), as was given according to the Cities’ Ordinance.”

        This isn’t a question of subtlety. This is a question of your attempt to be wrong. You succeeded.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Samuel

      So who does Jerusalem belong to in YOUR opinion, Johnboy? And why?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Witty

      Waiting for stupidity.

      Bennett’s “lets annex area C”.

      Glick’s “lets annex all of the West Bank”.

      Then the rights-based boycott movement goes into 2nd and then 3rd gear, actually affecting Israel’s economy and legal status.

      Reply to Comment
      • Samuel

        We will see. We will just have to see how many REAL people support a boycott of Israel.

        As for the rest, yes there has always been a boycott of Israel, since it’s birth, by those who hate Israel. But, not only are we still here, but we have been going from strength to strength. And our future prospects are good too. Offshore oil, Leviathan etc.

        Those who are thinking of joining the Arab boycott better contemplate the possibility that their boycott of Israel might end up biting them!

        Reply to Comment