Secretary of State John Kerry may look like he’s pulling all the stops in pushing an Israeli-Palestinian deal, but, according to newly elected Labor party chairman MK Yitzhak Herzog, the U.S. can also read the writing on the wall. Herzog told Maariv that should there be no significant movement by the end of March, “it looks like the U.S. will take a step back and lower its profile” on the negotiations.
At the same time, Herzog was quick to point out, Kerry is filled with optimism regarding the chances of the current talks, telling his Israeli supporter on the left that both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas have made brave and significant concessions.
Kerry’s main point in his meeting with Israel’s opposition leader Herzog was to find out how many hands would be raised in the Knesset in support of the Netanyahu concessions.
“He asked us not to enable the toppling of Netanyahu should he lose parts of the right” in his own coalition, “who will decide to vote against him once there’s progress in the talks,” a source in Herzog’s circle told Maariv.
The ever-present danger in volatile votes like this, is that once the prime minister loses the support of a sizeable portion of his own coalition members, the next move is in the hands of the opposition leader, who calls for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. At this point, if the same coalition members are angry enough, they add their votes to the opposition and take down the government.
Herzog wasn’t going to do that over the “peace process.” But the question remains whether Netanyahu really ahs the votes supporting the uprooting a constantly shifting number of Jews from Judea and Samaria (that number has gone from 150,000 down to 80,000 – neither of which have much reality to them, because the Palestinians want everything and the settlers won’t budge either, at least not without riot police bashing their faces in, which could spell the end of Netanyahu’s marriage with the right).
The same source said they were surprised by the seriousness of the current phase in the talks, and the fact that they now include all the “heavy” subjects, such as the right of return for Palestinians from around the world into Israel proper, the status of Jerusalem, Israeli control over the Jordan Valley, and, presumably, land swaps of settlements and Israeli Arab cities.
According to Maariv, based on information from senior political officials, Kerry plans to set up a direct meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas moments after the American “framework” document is finalized.
Kerry “is determined to hold a political summit meeting between the two leaders, as soon as he succeeds in getting agreements for that famous document,” the sources said.
Mind you, the “framework document” is expected to be merely a list of all the issues about which both sides disagree. Also, the document will not require the two sides to sign it, merely to acknowledge that, indeed, they disagree on those issues.
That’s not a lot to ask for. But there’s a reason for this strange document, which presents as success something which should have been the opening notes of the talks, rather than the sum total of their achievements after 7 months. Kerry intends to use this manufactured “success” as a basis for issuing a one-year extension to the talks, which are slated to conclude—based on the Secretary’s time limit—this February.
No one beats the State Department in smoke and mirror acts (Defense concentrates more on dog and pony).
Which makes our own headline here, based on the revelations in Maariv, about as hokum as anything the Secretary has been scheming. Kerry imposes a deadline, then creates a means to schlep out the deadline ad infinitum, then threatens to take his ball and go home in March, but by the time March rolls in the teams will be deep in phase two – and achieving nothing.