During his tenth round of Mideast shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry will attempt something new: get Israel and the Palestinians to agree to the outlines of a final peace agreement. Obama administration officials are calling it a “framework” accord.
According to the NY Times, the framework document “is aimed at achieving enough of a convergence on core issues that the two sides can make headway toward a formal peace agreement leading to an independent Palestinian state.”
If you think you understand the above paragraph, which, essentially, sounds like the normal thing people do when they negotiate, try this next one, also from Today’s NY Times:
American officials said the framework document “would not be signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and would most likely take note of reservations the two sides have about some elements.”
In other words, after 7 months of negotiations, we finally have agreed on a list of all the things about which we disagree.
Or, to speculate just a little bit, we sat for 9 months and didn’t get diddly done, so now, less than 2 months before the deadline, we’re filing for an extension.
Meaning that, for all the participants in this thing, it’s not about the results, it’s about the process.
Well, we’ve known that from the start.
My original headline for this report was “Kerry Shuffling Seats on Titanic Deck to Avoid February Iceberg.” But then I figured I’d go with the Kotel sale story, because it offers a more useful metaphor.
Two American Jews are standing at the Kotel Plaza, admiring the holy relic. An Israeli guy comes up to them and says, You like this wall? I can sell it to you. Really? One of the Jews asks. Sure, been in my family for centuries, you can have it for one million dollars. So the Jewish guy says, For a million dollars, it’s a steal, I’ll write you a check right away. You have a pen on you? And the Israeli hands him a pen, the Jewish guy takes out his checkbook, writes a check to $1 million and hands it over. They shake hands, the Israeli walks away, and the other Jew says, Are you nuts? You know the Kotel doesn’t belong to this guy. And his friend says, Oh, sure, I know that. But I don’t have a million dollars, the check will bounce. So why did you do this whole dance? his friend asks and the first Jew says: for this pen.
In two more months, God willing, the two sides in the maddest negotiations ever attempted, Part 6 (or is it part 7 already?) will reach the point where they admit there’s no way to achieve this illusive “convergence on core issues,” otherwise known as their hopelessly contradictory bottom lines.
Jerusalem: Israel says it will retain it whole, the Palestinians insist making Jerusalem their capital is a deal breaker.
Right of Return for refugees: Israel says no way, the Palestinians say it’s a deal breaker.
The Jordan Valley: A very, very tough sale for Livni and the Bolsheviks, again, full sovereignty a deal breaker for the Palestinians.
The Israeli team is promoting territorial swaps and some annexation of block settlements, evacuating about 100-150 thousand Jews. The Palestinians, at least officially, say getting all of the pre-1967 territory is a deal breaker.
Israel insists (go figure) that the Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish State – that’s a gigantic problem for the boys and girls in Ramallah, who would have to tell Israeli Arabs that they’re officially living on Jewish land. Maybe not an outright deal breaker, but a heap of trouble for sure.