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Posts Tagged ‘Kerry’

Nothing ‘Reasonable’ about Mideast Divide

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to swallow a painful and embarrassing concession to please the Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry had his moment of triumph.

In announcing the start of a new round of Middle East peace talks, Kerry has seemingly justified the way he has concentrated his efforts on an issue that was not in crisis mode and with little chance of resolution while treating other more urgent problems such as Egypt, Syria, and the Iranian nuclear threat as lower priorities.

But now that he has had his victory, the focus turns to the talks where few, if any, observers think there is a ghost of a chance of that the negotiations can succeed despite Kerry’s call for “reasonable compromises.”

The reason for that is that despite the traditional American belief that the two sides can split the difference on their disagreements, as Kerry seems to want, the problem is much deeper than drawing a new line on a map.

Ironically, proof of this comes from a new poll that some are touting as evidence that both Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution. The poll was a joint project of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. It shows, among other often-contradictory results, that a majority of Israelis (62 percent) supports a two-state solution while 33 percent oppose it. Among Palestinians, 53 percent support and 46 percent oppose the two-state solution.

But the question to ask about this poll and the conflict is what the two sides mean by a two-state solution. The answer comes in a subsequent query:

We asked Israelis and Palestinians about their readiness for a mutual recognition as part of a permanent status agreement and after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian State is established. Our current poll shows that 57% of the Israeli public supports such a mutual recognition and 37% opposes it. Among Palestinians, 42% support and 56% oppose this step.

In other words, Israelis see a two-state solution as a way to permanently end the conflict and achieve peace. But since a majority of Palestinians cannot envision mutual recognition even after all issues are resolved and they get a state, they obviously see it as merely a pause before the conflict would begin anew on terms decidedly less advantageous to Israel.

There are many reasons why the peace negotiations are likely to fail. The Palestinians are deeply split, with Gaza being ruled by the Islamists of Hamas who still won’t even contemplate talks with Israel, let alone peace. Kerry has praised Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, but he is weak and hasn’t the ability to make a peace deal stick even in the unlikely event he signs one.

Though Netanyahu went out on a political limb to enable the talks to begin by releasing scores of Palestinian terrorists, Abbas has shown in the past that he will say no, even when offered virtually everything he has asked for. Netanyahu will rightly drive a harder bargain and refuse to contemplate a deal that involves a complete retreat to the 1967 lines or a Palestinian state that isn’t demilitarized. But it’s hard to imagine Abbas ever recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

The real problem, however, isn’t about where negotiators would draw those lines. As the poll indicates, even after Israel withdraws from almost all of the West Bank (reports indicate Netanyahu is ready to give up 86 percent of it), a substantial majority of Palestinians still can’t fathom the possibility of mutual recognition and normal relations.

How can that be?

The reason is very simple and is not something Kerry or his lead negotiator Martin Indyk (a veteran of numerous diplomatic failures who hasn’t seemed to learn a thing from any of them) can fix. Palestinian nationalism was born in the 20th century as a reaction to Zionism, not by focusing on fostering a separate identity and culture from that of other Arab populations. That doesn’t mean Palestinians aren’t now a separate people with their own identity, but it does explain why they see that identity as indistinguishable from the effort to make Israel disappear.

Now We Know the Truth: What’s Behind US ‘Peace Process’ Policy

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

At last we have an explanation for what has been going on with Israel-Palestinian talks. It is credible yet ridiculous. And it is very important.

Here is today’s New York Times.

“In recent weeks, Mr. Kerry and his aides have outlined several basic arguments for why his efforts might bear fruit. Perhaps the most important one, which Mr. Kerry advanced almost the moment he was picked for the State Department post, is that the United States does not have the luxury of staying on the sidelines.” “With the Palestinians poised to take their claim for statehood to the International Criminal Court and United Nations bodies, American officials say the two sides were facing a downward spiral in which the Israelis would respond by cutting off financing to the Palestinian territories and European nations might curtail their investment in Israel, further isolating the Israelis.”

Now, what is this saying?

–The Palestinian Authority (PA) intends to violate all the pledges used over the last 20 years of negotiations and in obtaining the West Bank and, previously, Gaza Strip. (Not a good precedent for the likelihood of their keeping future commitments.)

–For doing so it is not being punished but rewarded.

–The PA will seek statehood not through negotiations with Israel but unilaterally. No Israel agreement will be necessary.

–Note a key assumption here: The United States either will not oppose, or effectively oppose, this effort. Let’s pause here.  You mean the United States cannot lead or pressure such countries as Britain, France, Germany, or Italy in saying “”no.” The New York Times doesn’t point out what a failure of Obama Administration influence that would be. Let’s also note the incompetence and failure of that government to stop leading allies at the UN General Assembly to vote for non-member statehood (a non-binding vote) last year despite a one-year warning the PA would try this.

–To summarize, the United States proposes surrender to a development breaking its more than 20-year-long policy that no comprehensive solution would be achieved without real mutual agreement. –After the “”success” of the unilateral independence for Palestine–remember, with no control of the PA over Gaza–Israel will take action, understandably since it has been sold out by its allies.

–European states, again with no effective action by America, will punish Israel and Israel will be worse off. Where to begin in analyzing this remarkable foundation for policy?

First, as I pointed out, it presumes incompetence and betrayal by the Obama Administration. It presumes that any battle to block either unilateral independence or punishment of Israel for opposing it would be doomed. This includes a refusal for the United State or European states to punish the PA even while they are believed they will eagerly punish Israel.

Incidentally, this explains Kerry’s seeming slip about Palestine already being an independent country! Will the Obama Administration recognize a state of Palestine not achieved through negotiation with Israel?

Second, it presumes that after everything it has done for 20-40 years has proven to be based on false promises, Israel should base itself on more of such promises.

Third, it presupposes that the punishment would be worse than the risk taken by Israel, and ignores any possible costs faced by the Palestinians. Just because the EU has put sanctions–far looser and less significant than they seem–against special economic privileges for Israeli settlements in Europe does that mean the EU will do major sanctions against Israel in its recognized territory? (If Israel has such indications we don’t know about it and, again, it shows how the United States has not fought against this.

Fourth, it assumes that having been given every reason to believe that they hold all the cards, the PA will make any compromises. This is not likely to result in a deal since Kerry has already told them that in a year or two more they can have anything. Here is Mahmoud Abbas radiating confidence that he is about to get a state.  Remember that Kerry’s last Middle East negotiations was when he thought he would easily wean away Syria’s dictatorship from Iran.

And fifth, why would the PA keep any post-treaty commitments? We know that Hamas will not, and that Iran would not accept them. How long before new cross-border attacks and new demands would be made.

Identities of the Murdering Terrorists Released

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Israel is set to release 104 terrorists for the questionable privilege of getting the Palestinian Authority to simply show up to the negotiating table.

The identities of the terrorists have finally been released.

All of them have served so far between 19 to 30 years for murdering Israelis, and even their fellow Arabs. Some of those slated to be released have been serving time for killing children, Israel Prize winners, and even Holocaust survivors.

Many of the prisoners were serving life sentences, which have been reduced to allow them to be freed. The list includes all terrorists captured before Oslo.

These terrorists set to be released are among the worst of the worst. Last week the number of terrorists to to be released was only 82, and the number seems to keep going up.

Netanyahu has called the release of these terrorists an “incredibly tough decision”, and one that is a “matter of national importance”.

Likud MK Danny Danon has called on government ministers to vote against “the crazy release of dozens of terrorists with the blood of hundreds of Israelis on their hands”.

JewishPress.com will be providing profiles on many of the murderers and their victims in an upcoming article.

Kerry Leaves without a Date for Talks, but Says Progress Is at Hand

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel without bringing Israeli and Palestinian officials back to the peace negotiating table.

Kerry said, however, that “real progress” had been made during his whirlwind trip and he would return to the region.

He left Israel for Asia on Sunday afternoon, following three meetings each with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We started out with very wide gaps and we have narrowed those considerably,” Kerry said before boarding his plane. “We are making progress. That’s what’s important and that’s what will bring me back here.

“I believe that with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach.”

Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday morning that Israel will not compromise on security in a peace deal with the Palestinians. He also said any agreement would be brought to a vote of the people.

“Israel is ready to begin negotiations without delay, without preconditions,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet. “We are not putting up any impediments on the resumption of the permanent talks and a peace agreement between us and the Palestinians.

“There are things that we will strongly insist on in the talks themselves, especially security,” Netanyahu said.

PLO official Saeb Erekat said on Sunday that there had been no breakthrough in the marathon.

“There has been no breakthrough so far and there is still a gap between the Palestinian and Israeli positions,” chief PLO negotiator Erakat told reporters after Kerry had finished talks in Ramallah with President Mahmoud Abbas, his third meeting in as many days.

“Netanyahu and his government are not serious about establishing a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, they speak of a state without clear borders, and we need clarity according to international resolutions,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior official of Abbas’s ruling Fatah party.

“We are ready to resume negotiations according to our clear guidelines,” he told Voice of Palestine.

“Even with regards to the prisoners’ issue, Israel did not provide any clear answer. We want a serious process to be launched,” he said.

JTA and Ma’an content was used in this report.

Ron Dermer to be Appointed Israel’s Ambassador to U.S.

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Galei Tzahal reported today that Ron Dermer will be appointed as Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. in August.

It was first reported by Makor Rishon in December 2012 that Dermer would be the next Israeli ambassador to the U.S., but the story was quickly denied a few days later by Israel’s Embassy in Washington.

Dermer fell out of the good graces of the Obama administration for his support of Mitt Romney, but he has been working to imporive his relationship with the current adminstration, and with John Kerry in particular.

Dermer made Aliyah from Florida in 1998, and served as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu for four years.

Russia is Playing a Losing Hand like a Winner

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

History is back and so are the Russians.

After an interregnum of twenty years, during which the communist Soviet Union was demolished and a crony capitalist, Russian kleptocracy turned inward to establish firm control of journalists (oh wait, that might have been the Obama Administration), civil society practitioners including lawyers, businessmen, and little girl punk bands, Vladimir Putin has laid down a marker in the Middle East. The suggestion that advanced SS300 air defense missiles are already in Syria and that Yakhont ship-to-ship missiles are coming, plus Russian warships steaming toward the region along with obstruction in the U.N. are all steps toward establishing Russia as the “go to” imperial power to control or end the Syrian civil war.

The Russian interest is twofold. First is to be the master of the diplomatic front. Whether the Russian-touted “peace conference” results in “peace” or a change of government in Damascus is less relevant than whether the Putin is in the driver’s seat. Second is to stop the spread of Sunni expansionist Islam that threatens Russia with the potential to reignite the Caucasus. Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ossetia are historically restive, but now are increasingly Islamic rather than nationalistic in their hatred of Orthodox Russia.

Two things make this really interesting. First, Putin is dealing with Israel much more forthrightly than he is with the United States, something that should be considered less a sign of respect for Israel’s red lines than disdain for the Obama Administration. Second, he has taken a narrow view of a broad problem — and thus is playing a losing hand.

On the American side, neither Secretary of State Kerry nor the president he serves seem to understand Russia’s goals in the region, and thus neither is prepared to uphold our own interests. When Kerry flew off to Moscow in early May to find a mechanism for an international conference on Syria, Putin kept him waiting three hours and, according to the London Daily Mail, “continuously fiddled with his pen as the top American diplomat spoke about the ongoing crisis.” Ever the good guest, Kerry told Putin, “The United States believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria — stability in the region, not having extremists creating problems throughout the region and elsewhere.”

Actually, we don’t. Kerry touted “stability,” but without specifying acceptable and unacceptable parameters for achieving it, he abdicated fundamental American principles. “Stability” is a tricky word. Russia was stable under the communists at a price of millions dead, and is working its way out of the messier parts of capitalism and back to stability by jailing people and having prominent “enemies of the State” conveniently drop dead. (See BerezovskyMagnitsky and Politovskaya for starters.) Syria was stable for years under Assad & Fils – and Russia would like to see it stable under Assad control again. If “stability” is all we seek, Kerry can just jump on the Russian bandwagon.

Moreover, aside from the rude treatment Kerry received in Moscow, contrasted with the very polite reception Prime Minister Netanyahu received a week later, the Russians waited until Kerry left to drop a bombshell. On May 16, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Lebanon’s Al-Madayeen that Iran would have to take part in any international conference. The State Department spokesman was forced to say the U.S. wouldn’t rule it out, because to do so would admit that Kerry’s trip was a failure. The U.S. may find itself negotiating directly with Iran on an issue other than nuclear weapons, which would be an abject failure for stated U.S. priorities.

David Kramer, President of Freedom House, reminded Washington Post readers that Moscow also detained a former U.S. official in the airport for 17 hours without food or water before deporting him; had camera crews film a civil-society activist when Kerry arrived at his home; and publicized the name of the presumed CIA station chief in Moscow, calling him a spy.

President Obama chalked it all up to the Cold War.

I don’t think it’s any secret that there remains lingering suspicions between Russia and other members of the G8 or the West… It’s been several decades now since Russia transformed itself and the Eastern Bloc transformed itself. But some of those suspicions still exist.

On the one hand, he gives Russia far too much credit for “transforming” itself; the roots of Russian imperialism haven’t changed in centuries. On the other hand, he can’t imagine that the current situation is driven by current Russian needs, not the old Cold War.

Why Salam Fayyad Stood No Chance against Fatah

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Administration has resumed its efforts to achieve peace not only between Israel and the Palestinians, but also between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad.

These efforts, however, seem to have failed: Fayyad is apparently out.

Over the past few years, Abbas and his Fatah faction have been trying to get rid of Fayyad, but to no avail.

Abbas and Fatah leaders see the U.S.-educated Fayyad, who was appointed prime minister in 2007 at the request of the U.S. and E.U. countries, as a threat to their control over the Palestinian Authority in general and its finances in particular.

Some Fatah leaders, such as Tawfik Tirawi and Najat Abu Baker, are even convinced that Fayyad is plotting, together with the U.S. and other Western countries, to replace Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority.

Were it not for U.S. and E.U. intervention, Abbas and Fatah would have removed Fayyad from his job several years ago.

Each time Abbas considered sacking Fayyad, U.S. and E.U. government officials stepped in to warn that such a move would seriously affect foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who made separate visits to Ramallah recently, also found themselves devoting much of their time trying to persuade Abbas to keep Fayyad in his position.

But U.S. and E.U. efforts to keep Fayyad in power seem to have been counterproductive. These efforts further discredited Fayyad in the eyes of many Palestinians.

Fayyad’s enemies have cited these efforts as “proof” that he is a “foreign agent” who has been imposed on the Palestinian Authority by Americans and Europeans.

Fatah’s main problem with Fayyad is that he has almost exclusive control over the Palestinian Authority budget.

In other words, Fatah does not like the idea that its leaders and members can no longer steal international aid because of Fayyad’s presence in power.

The Fatah leaders are yearning for the era of Yasser Arafat, when they and others were able to lay their hands on millions of dollars earmarked for helping Palestinians.

In a bid to regain some form of control over the Palestinian Authority’s finances, last year Abbas exerted heavy pressure on Fayyad to appoint [Abbas loyalist] Nabil Qassis as finance minister.

Until then, Fayyad had held the position of finance minister in addition to the premiership.

Earlier this year, Fayyad, in a surprise move, announced that he has accepted the resignation of Qassis without providing further details.

Shortly afterwards, Abbas issued a statement announcing that he has “rejected” the resignation of the finance minister.

Fayyad has since refused to comply with Abbas’s demand and reinstate Qassis.

But the dispute between Abbas and Fayyad is not only over financial matters.

In fact, much of it has to do with the feeling among Fatah’s top cadres that Fayyad is seeking to undermine the faction’s influence and probably end its role in the Palestinian arena.

They accuse him of cutting funds to Fatah’s members and refusing to pay salaries to former Fatah militiamen.

In this power struggle between Fatah and Fayyad, the prime minister is certain to emerge as the biggest loser.

Fayyad has no grassroots support or political power bases among Palestinians.

He does not have a strong political party that would be able to compete with Fatah.

Nor does he have his own militia or political backing, especially in the villages and refugee camps.

In the 2006 parliamentary election, Fayyad, who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, ran at the head of an independent list called Third Way. He won only two seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Most Palestinians did not vote for Fayyad because he had never played any active role in the fight against Israel. For Palestinians, graduating from an Israeli prison is more important than going to any university in the world. Fayyad, however, did not sit even one day in an Israeli prison.

Had Fayyad killed a Jew or sent one of his sons to throw stones at an Israeli vehicle, he would have earned the respect and support of a large number of Palestinians. In short, Palestinians do not consider Fayyad a hero despite his hard efforts to build state institutions and a fine economy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/khaled-abu-toameh/why-salam-fayyad-stands-no-chance-against-fatah/2013/04/14/

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