U.S. State Dept. comments on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s scheduled return to Israel this year offer faint indications that the Obama administration, may finally be getting ready to tell the Palestinian Authority and Israel, “Go fight it out among yourselves and leave us alone.”
No one is quite certain why Kerry is coming, unless he has some super-duper trick up his sleeve. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has dug his heels deep in the Saudi 2002 Initiative that has been developed into the basis of PA demands that there is nothing to be negotiated.
On the Israel side, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, one of the most senior and nationalist Likud Knesset Members, took it upon himself to say that the government is against a two-state solution.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was so upset that he called on the Sabbath to the Times of Israel website, which had quoted Danon, to voice his distance from Danon’s remarks.
The facts on the ground tell the story. On the one hand, Palestinian Authority Arabs, heavily backed by European Union and international leftist funding, have settled on thousands of acres in Judea and Samaria to stake claims and isolate Jewish communities.
On the other hand, In the first three months of this year, there were 865 housing starts in Judea and Samaria, compared with 313 in the same period in 2012, mirroring the nationalist influence of the Jewish Home party and its “partner through silence,” Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party.
Significantly, the figures do not include areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority and where the Netanyahu government has reportedly carried out a de facto building freeze since the beginning of the year.
Senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday following Danon’s comments, “I believe that a government that continues to tender settlements and rejects the two-state solution will not go for peace.”
So why does the Obama administration really think anyone is listening?
It does have an audience, limited but elite.
Only someone with the Ivory Tower view of President Shimon Peres, and there are still a few thousand like him, could actually believe that Abbas is sincere in wanting a peace agreement with Israel, even if all of his demands are met, while refusing to declare that Israel is a “Jewish state.” And only the same view could actually believe that peace can be achieved even Israel were to satisfy all of Abbas’ demands.
“It’s clear not only to us Palestinians but also to the American administration and John Kerry that the current Israeli government is not interested in the peace process,” Nimr Hamad, an adviser to Abbas, told the Associated Press. “The Palestinian position is clear. Israel has to be forced to stop the settlement activity.”
Abbas has long passed the point of no return, and Netanyahu, honest or not, can comfortably go through the motions of wanting to negotiate because he knows Abbas will refuse.
Is Kerry finally getting the message?
In Washington, the growing doubts among reporters of what has become a “peace process charade” have started to creep into the State Dept. comments.
In Friday’s daily news briefing, State Dept, spokeswoman Jen Psaki emphasized what previously has been stated as a secondary clause:
“Let me just reiterate the larger point here, which is that this is between – this is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the decision to move back to the negotiating table… But it is ultimately up to both sides, regardless of who else is involved on the outside.”
She could not even answer reporter’s questions concerning what meetings Kerry will conduct.
Kerry and President Barack Obama have said before that in the end, the Palestinian Authority and Israel must decide if they want an agreement.
Kerry does not want to be another failure following a long line off U.S. diplomats who have thought they could change the Middle East.
The smartest thing would be for Kerry to blame both sides and make a quick exit.
Is Kerry smart? Don’t bet on it.