U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has appointed his long-time aide Frank Lowenstein as “Acting Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations” following the departure of “permanent” envoy Martin Indyk, as reported here.
The State Dept.’s verbal acrobatics concerning Indyk’s departure and Lowenstein’s arrival provide plenty of evident that Foggy Bottom’s reality deals with more with its own in-house industry of solving the unemployment problem than with the realities of the Middle East.
Lest anyone think that the peace process has failed, State Dept. Spokeswoman Marie Harf was careful to tell reporters on Friday that Indyk really did not quit or resign.
The official announcement issued in Washington stated only that Indyk “will be returning to his position as Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution.”
Harf objected to the Associated Press’s reporting that Indyk “quit,” a term she said “is a little negative in tone….. He will be leaving his post here. I’m not sure bureaucratically, technically what he has to do, whether that’s submit a letter of resignation. It probably is. “
The concern to put a positive spin even on Indyk’s resignation reflects the State Dept.’s inability to understand who’s on first in the Israeli-Arab duel of wits to see who can confuse Washington the most, which is not very difficult.
If you thought the peace process is dead, think again.
“Well, we’re in a pause right now,” Harf stated, with a straight face.
Reporters covering the State Dept. long ago have stopped buying its song and dance. One reporter asked Harf that since no talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel have taken place since late April, why did it take Indyk two months to “leave.”
“I think he’s been working intensively with the parties to see if they could come back to the table in a meaningful way, and we haven’t been able to get there yet,” explained Harf.
That doesn’t fit, because nearly a month ago, no one could answer a reporter’s question exactly what Indyk was doing, except for being somewhere in Foggy Bottom.
He obviously was doing what hundreds, if not thousands, of other State Dept. employees do. They consult, talk, research, travel, and then consult and talk again and again.
Haaretz journalist Guy Rolnik reported on Saturday that a senior Israel diplomat involved in negotiations in Washington for two decades told him six years ago, “There are thousands of people in Washington who earn their living from the peace ‘process.’ Economic crisis or not, there’s a large group that is working on the peace process, working on the terror threats, working on Middle Eastern affairs – and will always work on the ‘process.’”
The “process” serves the interests of the Palestinian Authority very nicely, because without it, Ramallah could not exist, which it does by handouts from the United States and the European Union.
Harf stated the State Dept.’s self-serving need for the “peace process” when she claimed on Friday that there actually has been “progress” in the peace process since Kerry launched the doomed-from-start resumption of the illusion of negotiations last July.
“In general, we were able to define the gaps between the two parties on all the core issues in a fairly detailed and significant way. That’s something that we broadly knew before that, but I think was one of the things we would say was important. You can’t bridge gaps until you’ve defined them,” Harf explained.
The “peace process” began in 1991 when then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir agreed to debate Yasser Arafat in Madrid. Now, 23 years later, the U.S. State Dept. has made “progress” by figuring out the gaps. The truth is that Washington still does not understand the gaps because it does not understand much of anything that goes on east of Atlantic City, but assuming that it does, is that all the progress that can be reported?
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked Harf if the gaps are now known, then what’s going on with the issues, such as the so-called “right of return” for several million Arabs living in foreign countries and whose only connection with Israel is that their great-grandparents lived there 60-some years ago.
“The Israelis say no way, no right of return; the Palestinians say we have to have it,” Lee noted. “There’s the gap right there. And you learned more?”
Harf answered, “I think more information on gaps is progress, yes.”
That is why those thousands of loyal peace process workers are pushing pencils and buttons on telephones at the State Dept. They keep getting more useless information, as high as the ceiling, to keep themselves busy.
The objective, of course, is to create the illusion that the peace process is alive.
“Those discussions are going on right now, what it might look like if the parties come back to the table,” Harf explained.
Enter Frank Lowenstein.
He is “acting” special deputy, which represents an improvement in the State Dept.’s understanding of reality. The Peace Process Stage Show has been full of bad actors for years, but this is the first time anyone officially has been given that role.
Logic would dictate that since there no longer is a “permanent” special envoy, the peace process is dead, but logic is not a priority in Washington.
“We’re still deeply engaged with both of the parties to see if they can get back to the table,” said Harf. “This is a pause. It is a tough time…..While the direct negotiations have taken a pause, our efforts behind the scenes to work with both parties to get them back to the table are ongoing. It’s challenging, certainly, but we’re still in discussions and we’re still in negotiations talking to them about how they could do that.”
Lowenstein apparently is in charge of negotiations about returning to negotiations, at which point he could become “permanent” special deputy, until he resigns, quits, or simply disappears, like Indyk and all of his predecessors.Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu
About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.
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