Apparently there has been no let-up in Secretary of State Kerry’s drive to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians within the nine-month period he prescribed last year, which ends in April 2014.
Just prior to leaving for a diplomatic trip to Vietnam last week, Mr. Kerry met with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas to spur the talks on amid indications they were sputtering.
Of particular concern to us is Mr. Kerry’s seeming obliviousness to Mr. Abbas’s public rejection of Israel’s core security requirements, set by Israel and largely acknowledged by the U.S.
Given Mr. Kerry’s relentless pursuit of a diplomatic triumph to boost the administration’s sagging fortunes, it is only inevitable that U.S. pressure will mount for Israel to give in on its critical security issues, since it is fairly obvious that a fundamental rethinking by Mr. Abbas is not in the cards and Israel is seen as the more vulnerable party to American importuning.
Israel has demanded, and the Palestinians have categorically rejected, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; a continuing Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley to thwart possible terrorism against Israel emanating from Jordan; and an agreement that any Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized.
Mr. Abbas continues to maintain that these demands are fundamentally inconsistent with Palestinian nationhood and sovereignty. To be sure, there are other issues – such as the right of return for Palestinians, final disposition of Jerusalem, and permanent borders generally – that are equally vexing.
But it is the significance of the core issues, of the sine qua non variety, that comprise the underlying problem facing Israel in terms of the Kerry agenda.
That is, Secretary Kerry seems to view a Middle East settlement as a legacy issue and something to be nailed down despite the objections of one or both of the parties.
A complicating factor for Israel is the growing disarray in the Middle East. Israel is expected to compromise on its security interests despite the still festering problem of Iran’s push for a nuclear weapons capacity and regional hegemony along with its continuing material and political support of terrorism.
Hizbullah remains a lethal nuisance on Israel’s northern frontier while Hamas can be expected to overwhelm Mr. Abbas and Fatah as well as Jordan should Israel cede wide swaths of Judea and Samaria. Syria is a powder keg. Iraq and Afghanistan are unsettled. And there is much unresolved turmoil occasioned by the Arab Spring in Egypt and other Middle East states.
This is hardly a context in which Israel should be expected to make fateful decisions concerning its security. But Mr. Kerry seems determined to get Israel to do so. And he is, when all is said and done, the secretary of state of the world’s sole superpower, which also happens to be Israel’s biggest benefactor.