Kerry tries to square circle

Inside John Kerry's yacht Isabel

Inside John Kerry’s yacht Isabel

News item:

Demands that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state have become a major stumbling block in John Kerry’s search for a settlement to the Middle East’s most enduring conflict.

As the US secretary of state continued a frantic diplomatic quest on Sunday that some have dubbed “mission impossible”, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Palestinians’ refusal to formally acknowledge the country’s Jewish character had become the key topic in his discussions with Mr Kerry.

Palestinian officials admitted that Mr Kerry has pressed the issue with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, who has so far refused to bend.

“The Americans have made it very clear that [recognition of Israel as a Jewish state] is their position,” one Palestinian official told The Daily Telegraph. “They talk about it in meetings with our side and make an issue out of it. We have made it very clear that we are not going to sign any agreement that recognises Israel as a Jewish state.”

Many people agree with the Prime Minister that the refusal of the Arabs to admit that Israel is the state of the Jewish people is at the heart of the dispute. But then they draw the conclusion that a statement to this effect by the Arabs — the enunciation of a formula that is acceptable to both sides — would represent a ‘breakthrough’ that would enable the end of the conflict. This reasoning is fallacious and naive to the extreme.

John Kerry, who pushes willful ignorance and blindness to new lows, is now searching for such a formula. But words are not actions. The problem isn’t that the Arabs aren’t prepared to say certain words about Israel, but rather that regardless of what they say, they intend to do their worst to snuff out Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, which they view as an affront to both Islam and Arab honor.

An honest statement that the PLO is willing to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in any of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean would represent a historic turnabout, a complete repudiation of what has been the PLO’s reason for being since its creation in 1964. It would be like a crocodile announcing that it is becoming a kitten. Such a statement, even if made with a wink, a nod and fingers crossed, would endanger the life of the person making it.

But doesn’t Mahmoud Abbas already accept the concept of a two-state solution? Well, sort of: as a temporary stop on the way to replacing the Jewish state with an Arab state. This is why the PLO concept of ‘two-state solution’ includes the ‘right of return’ for Arab ‘refugees’ to Israel as an integral part. If you doubt this, here are some explanations of their understanding of the two-state idea from PLO and Fatah officials and media.

At some point, Kerry may even be able to get Abbas to utter some words that he can make Netanyahu accept, which will then be touted as a ‘recognition’ of the Jewish state of Israel. If so, it will surely be one of those masterpieces of diplomatic equivocation (like ‘two-state solution’), which can be interpreted in precisely opposite ways by the sides.

What would have to happen in order for me to believe that Mahmoud Abbas has suddenly become Nelson Mandela? Well, for starters, the continuous incitement against Israel and Jews, the glorification of terrorists, the maps that don’t show Israel, etc. would have to change. This isn’t going to happen with this generation of Palestinian leaders, and I don’t see it on the horizon either.

I have a suggestion for John Kerry: just go home, spend some time on your nice boat and stop trying to square the circle. The best way for the US to promote peace between Israel and the Arabs is to wholeheartedly support the side that actually wants peace.

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4 Responses to “Kerry tries to square circle”

  1. Lise Rosenthal says:

    Did you know that Isabel is the Spanish version of Jezebel? Does that make Kerry captain Ahab?

  2. joelsk44039 says:

    To reiterate, Abbas is now serving in the 9th year of his 4 year term. He has no legitimacy from the get-go, and as you’ve stated, if he “agreed” to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, he’d be breathing his last breath rather soon after.

  3. Robman says:

    For the U.S. to wholeheartedly back the side that really wants peace, the U.S. would have to admit that Israel is right, and the Palestnians are in the wrong.

    Kerry, by himself, MIGHT be able to do this. By “might”, I mean maybe a 10% chance. Not likely, but theoretically, and minimally, plausible.

    But Obama CANNOT and WILL NOT do this. Ever. No matter what. And, he’s the boss.

    The only ray of hope on the near-term horizon is the upcoming visit of Canadian PM Harper.

    He might introduce some proposals of his own, that are more Israel-friendly. The Palestinians would never accept these, but Harper – whose government no longer provides any funding for the PA, from what I understand – can argue that since the PA won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, then neither Israel, nor anyone who is a true ally of Israel, can be considered obligated to recognize the PA as legitimate, either.

    Perhaps Harper will come out in favor of some form of the “Jordanian option”, with maybe some contiguous part of J&S confederated with Jordan as a DMZ. Can’t guarantee this, but I’ve got a hunch on this, anyway. This is his first ever state visit to Israel since becoming Canadian PM seven years ago. He is by far Israel’s best and most sincere friend on the world stage right now.

    I don’t think he’s coming there to persuade Netanyahu to capitulate to Obama/Kerry, and given the gravity of this situation and the extent of Harper’s political commitment to Israel, I don’t think he’s just coming over there at this juncture to say, “Hang in there, Israel. Canada is behind you! Stiff upper lip and all that! Must be going now…”

    So, if he’s not going over there to sell Bibi on Obama/Kerry’s nonsense, and if he intends to do something more substantive than offer reassuring rhetoric, then we might see something extraordinary happen. If Harper does what I hope/suspect, this will provide a positive alternative paradigm that supporters of Israel – such as in the U.S. Congress – can rally behind, and make it that much harder for Obama to politically justify sticking it to Israel, since his ideas will no longer be the ‘only game in town’. Most importantly, if Harper does this, it can have the effect of helping to push the onus for the lack of peace back where it belongs: on the shoulders of the Arabs. Wouldn’t happen all at once, obviously, but would serve as serious ammunition to that effect for Israel and her supporters.

    If he doesn’t do this, then the continuing impasse will probably lead to an historic breakdown of the U.S-Israeli alliance. I don’t think Bibi will cave. Politicailly, I don’t think he can. Correct me if I’m wrong, Israeli readers here, but my take is that the Israeli public will not let him.

    Gonna be a loooong three years….

  4. Shalom Freedman says:

    I think this major point is correct. ‘Words’ are not the most important thing. Imagine Kerry does get a ‘major concession’ and get Abbas to say he ‘recognizes’ a Jewish state. And for that we make the major concession of say withdrawing to the 67′ lines with minor land swaps. We will have traded something real, substantial, lasting for hot air, that can turn cold one day later.
    I am not certain then that making this a major issue will ultimately work for our benefit.