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Israel has inflicted ‘very deep wounds’ on US

This posting has these post-mortem autopsies:
1) NY Times: After Failed Peace Talks, Pushing to Label Israel as Occupier of Palestine, Isabel Kershner speculates on the game-changing consequences of the talks’ failure. Insets on Shawan Jabarin and Alan Baker;
2) Asharq Al-Awsat: Debate: Kerry is partly responsible for the failure of Palestinian–Israeli peace talks. first part of debate in London-based pan-Arab daily, Israel and the US share the fault;
3) Asharq Al-Awsat: Debate: Israel alone is responsible for undermining the Palestinian–Israeli peace talks, Palestine’s ambassador to Egypt and permanent representative to the Arab League provides the second piece in the debate which, despite the headline, is primarily an attack on Hamas;
4) Ynet news:Inside the talks’ failure: US officials open up, an exclusive interview with American officials on why the talks failed, a first for Ynet;
5) Agence Global: Catastrophe Ahead After Peace Talks Collapse, Rami G. Khouri, an American Palestinian based in Beirut, writes  an unusually angry account of “the darkest and most destructive sides of Israel and its Western backers”;
6) LMD: If Kerry fails, what then?, before Kerry failed, long-time analysts Sam Bahour and Tony Klug wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique about what the consequences would be;
7) Notes and links, on Shurat HaDin and links to previous posts on Kerry talks;

July 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry kicks off a renewed peace process in Washington. (Bureau of Public Affairs/State Department).  Flanked by Tzipi Livni, Left and special envoy Martin Indyk [see Martin Indyk set to resign…] from 2013, John Kerry’s doomed peace process is deja vu all over again, Phyllis Bennis on August 1, 2013, Mondoweiss.

After Failed Peace Talks, Pushing to Label Israel as Occupier of Palestine

By Isabel Kershner, NY Times
May 04, 2014

JERUSALEM — More than a year after Palestine was upgraded to become a non-member observer state of the United Nations, the attributes of statehood exist mainly on official Palestinian letterheads.

Now, with the collapse of the American-brokered Middle East negotiations, the Palestinian leadership is focusing on its diplomatic and legal struggle for international recognition of Palestine as a state under occupation and for Israel to be held accountable as the occupier.

Last month, in a move that angered Israel and Washington, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority signed applications to join 15 international treaties and conventions after Israel missed a deadline for releasing Palestinian prisoners.

In the absence of negotiations, the Palestinians plan to proceed cautiously as they join more than 40 other treaties and agencies, culminating in an application to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which was established in 2002 to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The court is seen by the Palestinians as a powerful tool because, experts say, Israel risks prosecution there for its policy of settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel seized in the 1967 war and which, along with Gaza, the Palestinians claim for their state.

“Israel cannot maintain the status quo,” said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, in a recent interview. “I hope Netanyahu has a good legal team studying this,” he said of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “so he won’t be surprised if we take further action to defend ourselves.”

The Palestinians assert that Israel has already deprived the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, an interim self-rule body established 20 years ago, of any real powers. Mr. Abbas recently complained to a group of Israeli journalists at his headquarters in Ramallah that “any junior Israeli officer could come in here and disperse this meeting, because we have no power or authority.”

One option Mr. Abbas is weighing is to disband the authority, dismantling its security forces and forcing Israel to take responsibility for the state under occupation.

“We have a plan, step by step, depending on the situation,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a member of a special committee of experts and politicians who are discussing the various options.

Among the first treaties the Palestinians joined were the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and additional protocols of 1977 on the laws of war. Others deal primarily with human rights issues such as discrimination against women and the rights of children.

Palestinian leaders argue that by signing on to the Geneva Conventions, Palestine has been recognized as a state under occupation, undermining the official Israeli position that the 1967 territories are disputed.

But the Palestinian plan is fraught with complexities, not least because it opens the Palestinians themselves up to scrutiny and potential counteractions by Israelis. Experts say a Palestinian state could potentially be held responsible for every rocket fired into Israeli civilian areas by militants in Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas.

“By joining these treaties they are basically exposing themselves to criticism,” said an Israeli official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity because he said the government had decided not to discuss the issue publicly. “Official rebuke, special reports, fact-finding missions and condemnations — they are not ready for that.”

He added, “There is nothing easier than to show that human rights are being systematically violated, day in day out, in Gaza.”

Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, undertook a tour of Europe in Spring 2013 to denounce  administrative detention in Israel. He has been a Palestinian prisoner of conscience, adopted by Amnesty International in 1990, and spent more than eight years behind bars. From Amnesty International, France. Photo by Aurelie Chatelard.

Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian human rights organization based in Ramallah, said: “Palestine is not in a normal situation. We have to also say where Israel is responsible as an occupying power.” Still, he added, ratifying treaties and conventions “puts an obligation and responsibility on the Palestinian state.”

Ready or not, he said, the Palestinians should face the challenge.

By joining the International Criminal Court and coming under its jurisdiction, the Palestinians could open themselves to potential investigations requested by pro-Israeli nongovernmental organizations or the United Nations Security Council, under court rules, even if Israel is not itself a member.

Israel originally supported the establishment of the international court but it did not ratify the Rome Statute that governs it, in part out of fear of ending up in the court over the issue of settlements.

alan baker
Born in theUK in 1947, Alan Baker [above] emigrated to Israel in 1969 where he spent several years as a military prosecutor and senior legal adviser in the IDF’s international law division and represented the Ministry of Defence and IDF at international conferences.  He was seconded by the government of Israel to the UN where he served as a senior legal adviser. From 1996 to 2004, he was legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and served as Israel’s ambassador to Canada from 2004 to 2008. In 2010 he took up the post of Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Baker has represented Israel in international conferences and negotiations, including the preparatory committees and conferences involved in the establishment of the International Criminal Courtin 1998, and coordinated Israel’s legal presentation to the International Court of Justice on the issue of Israel’s security barrier in 2004. From Wikipedia

Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry who was involved in negotiating the Rome Statute, said that Arab states injected language referring to the “direct or indirect” transfer of populations.

“The whole idea was to declare Israeli settlement as one of the most serious crimes against humanity,” said Mr. Baker, who now works at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a conservative-leaning research institute.

Yet at the same time Mr. Baker, himself a settler, and some other Israelis dismiss the risk of Israel’s being prosecuted for the settlements.

They note that the court deals only with grave crimes committed since its establishment in 2002; the bulk of the settlements were established before that. The court also deals with the crimes of individuals, not governments, meaning that it would have to establish who was most responsible for the diffuse settlement project that took place over decades.

Mr. Jabarin of Al-Haq countered that it would be easy to sue Israel over the settlements because it was an open policy, not secret, and it was “a continuing crime.”

Either way, the threat has stirred up disparate responses in Israel.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin which aims to bankrupt Palestinian groups by bringing charges of terrorism against them. The very photogenic face of Israeli state lawfare and information-gathering (see Notes and links).

Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law center that supports victims in lawsuits against terrorist groups, says it is preparing proposed indictments of Palestinian officials for perpetrating attacks against Israelis. It plans to activate these complaints if the Palestinians join the international court.

“We can do what the government cannot do,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of the center.

If the Palestinians insist on going to The Hague, Naftali Bennett, an Israeli right-wing minister, recently wrote in the newspaper Israel Hayom, “call us and we’ll buy you a ticket.”

Israelis on the left are raising the idea of Israel’s joining the court and being held accountable for possible crimes along with the Palestinians.

Ishai Menuchin [above], director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, a nongovernmental organization that serves as an advocate for all those in Israel’s prison system, said it was important to open a debate about the court in Israel. His group will soon publish a report examining the implications. “Both sides have something to fear,” he said.

In Israel, Yaela Raanan has lived for nearly a decade in communities near Gaza, which have been the targets of persistent Palestinian rocket attacks.

“The I.C.C. was created for people like me,” she said. “The people lobbing Qassam rockets at us should be in prison.”

But Ms. Raanan, 49, a teacher of public policy at a regional college, also said that Israel should face the legal consequences of its settlement-building policies, an untypical view in Israel. “A change in the rules of the game could be positive,” she added.

Debate: Kerry is partly responsible for the failure of Palestinian–Israeli peace talks

By Amine Kammourieh, Asharq Al-Awsat
May 05, 2014

After months of US shuttle diplomacy in the region and many rounds of negotiations, both covert and overt, the Palestinian–Israeli negotiations are back at square one. The powers-that-be in Ramallah have been disappointed once more and the US administration has again failed to push the peace process forward, while Israel sees the status quo as an opportunity to continue building settlements and confiscating Palestinian land without repercussions.

There is no doubt that Israel intentionally brought down US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan even before the main principles had been agreed. That said, Israel’s position on peace and the establishment of the Palestinian state has been clear and unwavering for a long time. It was the US administration’s responsibility to pressure Israel to change in order to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian problem.

The main issue was the plan itself. On one hand, it provided the necessary cover for Israel to continue its destruction and abuse; on the other, it gave the Palestinians nothing but disappointment and despair. Kerry was unable to achieve a political breakthrough because of Israel’s obstinate refusal to recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, to stop the building of Israeli settlements, or to divide Jerusalem in return for Palestinian recognition of the Jewish nature of the State of Israel. From what we can see in versions of the draft agreement leaked to the Israeli media, Kerry could not find a single Palestinian who would accept the document and its terms on the Jordan Valley, the sovereignty of the Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, the refugee situation, and more.

Kerry’s plan offered the Palestinians the equivalent of limited self-governance lacking key elements of national sovereignty, and in practice, would be keeping most of the West Bank under direct Israeli occupation. This means the plan would take into account the realities of the settlements established by Israel since the occupation in 1967, knowing that to this day Israel continues to invest in building settlements. Kerry’s plan explicitly stipulated that the major Jewish settlement blocs in the Israeli West Bank, which contain around 70–80 percent of all settlers, should be annexed to Israel.

What shocked the Palestinian Authority was that Kerry not only wanted to allow Israel to annex major settlement blocs—which are spread over 10 percent of the West Bank territory, but that he also dismissed the need to dismantle settlements which lie outside those particular blocs. He furthermore defended Israel’s right to maintain settlements inside areas that would be part of the Palestinian state.

What makes matters more complicated is that the US side wanted to grant Israel security powers in areas where there are settlements within the borders of a Palestinian state, including the roads that link them to Israel. As a result, the Israeli army would have the right to retain military bases within areas belonging to the Palestinian Authority, to ensure the security of settlers.

Kerry’s plan also explicitly called for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state—a position that has been expressed by the leaders of the US administration, particularly US President Barack Obama, on more than one occasion. The gravity of accepting this request not only stems from the fact that it would mean the Palestinians’ implicit waiver of the right of return for refugees, but also because it would mean legitimizing all the activities Israel carries out in order to ensure its Jewish character, whether at a religious, demographic, legal, or cultural level.

Despite its weakness, the Palestinian street will not accept a solution that fails to achieve even the minimum standards of fairness and justice. Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian president, was hoping Kerry would be able to create the necessary conditions for the approval of a framework plan that would have given Abbas both more time and a victory: the release of the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners. This could be employed politically one way or another, in the context of domestic political back-and-forth within the Palestinian scene.

Despite Kerry’s persistent desire to keep negotiations alive, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has escalated the conditions which impact the Americans themselves, such as demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, the US citizen serving life in prison after being convicted of espionage for Israel in the mid-1980s. This was to have come in exchange for Netanyahu’s approval of an unannounced slowdown in building settlement units outside East Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs, extending negotiations for nine months, and releasing the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners—127 in total—detained since before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Having reached this level of Israeli arrogance, Abbas announced a return to the United Nations option, beginning with Palestine’s accession to 15 international agreements and treaties that could help Palestine, a non-member observer state, to fully join the United Nations. Afterwards, the Abbas government announced a reconciliation agreement with Hamas and an agreement to form a national unity government under his leadership. These are the two things that roused the ire of Israel, pushing it to deal a final blow to the negotiations, announcing a halt in discussions.

It is evident that Abbas would not have done what he did if he still held on to a glimmer of hope of reaching a peace agreement with Israel, even if the negotiations were extended for another nine months. Ever since Netanyahu asked Abbas for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for signing the peace agreement, the Palestinian leadership has realized that the Israeli government is not interested in finding a resolution to their dispute. It is unrealistic for Abbas to meet this Israeli condition because, put simply, it indicts the Palestinians as the aggressors ever since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, and perhaps even before. It also means that Palestinians have no historical right to the land—that they must themselves recognize it as land for the Jews, and not their own. What will be the fate of the Palestinians who still live in the occupied territories after Abbas recognizes Israel as a Jewish state? What will ensure they will not be displaced, just as their relatives were more than 66 years ago?

Amine Kammourieh is a writer and political analyst from Lebanon.

Debate: Israel alone is responsible for undermining the Palestinian–Israeli peace talks

By Barakat El-Farra, Asharq Al-Awsat
May 05, 2014

The division of the Palestinian arena following a coup by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on July 14, 2007 led to seven lean years that dealt the Palestinian cause a lethal blow. The division has led to severe damage, reflected in the weakening of the Palestinian position in the face of Israeli occupation, creating a situation from which Israel benefits first and foremost. The only losers are the Palestinian people, because their suffering has increased.

Despite the strenuous efforts Egypt has made since day one of the split between Hamas and Fatah, the two sides have never been able to reconcile because of Hamas’ intransigence and procrastination. When a reconciliation agreement signed by Fatah was reached through Egyptian mediation in 2009, Hamas refused to sign it. The agreement stagnated until May 5, 2011, when Hamas and other Palestinian factions signed up to what was called the Cairo Agreement. Then, in February 2012, the Doha Declaration complemented the Cairo Agreement. Despite this, neither agreement was able to push the reconciliation process even a single step forward due to obfuscation by Hamas, in what amounted to an evasion of the agreed-upon commitments.

The new Gaza Agreement stipulates operational mechanisms to implement the Cairo Agreement and the Doha Declaration. Such mechanisms include the formation of a government of national consensus, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, within a five-week timeframe. Specialists and technocrats are to prepare for legislative, presidential and National Council elections. President Abbas set the date of simultaneous elections for all three bodies for at least six months in the future, after the formation of the government in consultation with the Palestinian factions. This latest agreement also includes creating a Special Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as a Freedoms and Community Reconciliation Committee.

It is natural that Palestinian society and the Arab world should welcome this latest agreement and abide by it. Its implementation would end the seven lean years, and restore the lost unity of the Palestinian people. It would enable the Palestinians to better confront the Zionist occupation, restore the Palestinian cause to its rightful status on the world stage, and strengthen Palestine’s position at the negotiating table. It would also ease the suffering endured by the Palestinian people as a result of their divisions, and renew their executive and legislative frameworks.

What is surprising about the responses to the reconciliation agreement is that the Israeli government decided to halt negotiations with the Palestinian side—even though everyone knew they were already over. It is hinting at new penalties imposed on the Palestinian people—as if there were a more severe penalty than that of occupation. Also surprising is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration that President Abbas has to choose between peace with Israel and reconciliation with Hamas. Israel forgets that the two issues are unrelated. The prime minister of Israel has ignored the fact that Palestinian reconciliation is a Palestinian affair, not an Israeli one or anyone else’s.

But when the prime minister of Israel has no desire for peace or intent to work towards it, and instead puts obstacles in front of every attempt to reach a compromise, it confirms the Arab and global public view that Israel is still refusing a just and comprehensive peace. Here we ask Netanyahu why he didn’t release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners; why didn’t he, under American supervision, do what he had already agreed to do? His actions led to the failure of these negotiations, while the Palestinian side presented all that was required of it to achieve the desired peace.

How long will Israel delay? How long will it occupy the territory of the Palestinian state as the international community stands idly by?

Israel is pushing the entire region to the brink by pursuing its aggressive policies of continued settlement and wall-building, the Judaization of Jerusalem, the desecration of holy sites—especially the Al-Aqsa Mosque—and the siege of the Gaza Strip by land and sea—not to mention the unrelenting raids, arrests, murder and aggression.

Israel must comply with international resolutions and international law and withdraw from the territory of the State of Palestine—now an observer member of the United Nations—instead of looking for flimsy and futile excuses. It knows it isn’t fooling anyone anymore.

Barakat El-Farra is Palestine’s ambassador to Egypt and permanent representative to the Arab League.

youth protest nabi saleh
A Palestinian demonstrator wearing a hood in the colours of the Palestinian flag kicks a burning tyre during clashes at a weekly protest against a nearby Jewish settlement in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, 20 January 2012. ‘Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements’. Photo by Mohamad Torokman / Reuters.

Inside the talks’ failure: US officials open up

In an exclusive interview, American officials directly connected to the talks reveal the real reason for the collapse of the negotiations.

By Nahum Barnea, Ynet news
May 05, 2014

The American version of why the current round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians failed is fundamentally different to the one presented by Israeli officials. The list of those to blame for this failure is also very different. From the US perspective, the issue of the settlements was largely to blame.

Senior American officials involved in Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace push this week agreed to share with me their take on the talks’ failure.

They had one condition, in line with instructions they had received – that I didn’t name them. But what they told me is the closest thing to an official American version of what happened.

The American team will be disbanded in the coming days – most of it, or all of it. Kerry has yet to decide what he is going to do – whether he will wait several months and then try to renew his effort, or release the principles of an agreement formulated by the Americans.

By releasing the American principles, Kerry would force the two sides to play offense – each side in its own internal battleground – but in doing so, he also risks exposing himself to criticism over the many errors he made along the way.

Using advanced software, the Americans drew a border outline in the West Bank that gives Israel sovereignty over some 80 percent of the settlers that live there today. The remaining 20 percent were meant to evacuate. In Jerusalem, the proposed border is based on Bill Clinton’s plan – Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians.

The Israeli government made no response to the American plan, and avoided drawing its own border outline.

The criticism against the Israeli government is presented in terms of wounds inflicted by a friend who could still be trusted: Israel is very dear to them, but the wounds are deep.

Netanyahu-Obama rift

Let’s go back to the beginning. Was this round not doomed for failure from day one?

“The negotiations had to start with a decision to freeze settlement construction. We thought that we couldn’t achieve that because of the current makeup of the Israeli government, so we gave up. We didn’t realize Netanyahu was using the announcements of tenders for settlement construction as a way to ensure the survival of his own government. We didn’t realize continuing construction allowed ministers in his government to very effectively sabotage the success of the talks.

“There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state. We’re talking about the announcement of 14,000 housing units, no less. Only now, after talks blew up, did we learn that this is also about expropriating land on a large scale. That does not reconcile with the agreement.

“At this point, it’s very hard to see how the negotiations could be renewed, let alone lead to an agreement. Towards the end, Abbas demanded a three-month freeze on settlement construction. His working assumption was that if an accord is reached, Israel could build along the new border as it pleases. But the Israelis said no.”

Did President Obama’s decision to distance himself from the negotiations contribute to the talks’ failure?

“The president supported Kerry throughout the duration of the talks. The clearest example of that was his willingness to prepare for Jonathan Pollard’s release. Such a move wouldn’t have helped his popularity in the American security system.

“Moreover, when one of the president’s aides accused Kerry of the talks’ failure during a background briefing with the New York Times, the president made an exception and publicly supported his secretary of state.

“It is true that the president was doubtful. That was obvious from the start. He questioned the willingness of leaders on both sides to take the necessary risks. In the end, he realized he was right.”

In hindsight, had the president been more involved, could an accord have been reached?

“No. Usually, the president’s involvement is very important. We all remember how President Jimmy Carter mediated between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat in Camp David; we all remember President Clinton’s crucial involvement in the talks between Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat at the Wye River summit (in 1998). But this case is different. Kerry has invested a lot in his personal relationship with Netanyahu. They talked on the phone three times a week and sometimes three times a day. There were video conference calls and close to 70 meetings. The relationship of trust between Kerry and Netanyahu was crucial to ensure that Netanyahu tempered his positions and moved forward. The president does not have the time for such a long-term effort – and besides, there are many rifts between Obama and Netanyahu. Every negotiation is a special case. This round was a very special case.”

Ya’alon’s attack

The leaders on both sides are spoiled. They make decisions that mean paying a political price only when there’s a knife at their throat. A superpower like the United States has convincing means of pressure, but you avoided using them.

“There was a massive effort on our part to pull the wagon out of the deep quicksand it was stuck in. But the reality here hit us hard. Neither side had a sense of urgency. Kerry was the only one who felt a sense of urgency, and that was not enough.”

Compare the current round of talks to Henry Kissinger’s efforts after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, an effort that led to disengagement agreements between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Egypt. Compare it to James Baker’s effort after the first Gulf War, an effort that led to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.

“At the end of a war there is a sense of urgency,” they said. And then one of them added bitterly: “I guess we need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress.

“20 years after the Oslo Accords, new game rules and facts on the ground were created that are deeply entrenched. This reality is very difficult for the Palestinians and very convenient for Israel.”

What, you didn’t know this in advance?

“We knew. But we willingly pushed our lack of faith aside.”


“Because Kerry believed and we believed that if not now, then when? It was a desperate effort. Kerry thought of the future – he believed, and still does, that if the two sides can’t reach an accord, Israel is going to be in a lot worse shape than it is today.”

Were you surprised when you discovered that the Israelis don’t really care what happens in the negotiations?

“Yes, we were surprised. It surprised us all along the way. When (Moshe) Ya’alon, your defense minister, said that the only thing Kerry wants is to win a Nobel Prize, the insult was great. We were doing this for you and for the Palestinians. Of course, there were also American interests at play.

moshe yaalon
Screenshot of Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon at the Munich Security Conference – reiterating his mantra: it’s not about borders it’s about the Palestinian refusal to ‘recognise Israel as the Jewish state’. Bogie-speak for “This is our position: humiliate the Palestinians – and Kerry”.

“A lot of people told us – ‘don’t stop. Keep going.’ We told them: ‘It’s in your hands. Take responsibility for your own fate.’ But, stuck in their own ways, they preferred we do their job for them. Public apathy was one of our biggest problems.

“One of the Palestinians who participated in the talks told an Israeli participant: ‘You don’t see us. We’re transparent, we’re hollow.’ He had a point. After the second intifada ended and the separation barrier was built, the Palestinians turned into ghosts in the eyes of the Israelis – they couldn’t see them anymore.”

It almost sounds like you wish for an intifada.

“Quite the opposite, it would be a tragedy. The Jewish people are supposed to be smart; it is true that they’re also considered a stubborn nation. You’re supposed to know how to read the map: In the 21st century, the world will not keep tolerating the Israeli occupation. The occupation threatens Israel’s status in the world and threatens Israel as a Jewish state.”

The world is being self-righteous. It closes its eyes to China’s takeover of Tibet, it stutters at what Russia’s doing to Ukraine.

“Israel is not China. It was founded by a UN resolution. Its prosperity depends on the way it is viewed by the international community.”

Abbas’ misgivings

The method you chose – talks based on personal relationships – has failed.

“In the first six months, there were bilateral talks under our auspices. The two sides met about 20 times. In one of those meetings, special US envoy to the talks Martin Indyk left the room and the two sides were left alone.

“The talks allowed us to define the gaps between the two sides. In December, we realized it was time to present our own ideas. We held separate discussions, with Israel and with the Palestinians. Most of the talks were between Kerry and Netanyahu, in an effort to convince him to change his positions and bridge the chasm.

“At this point the Palestinians were happy. They saw a rift had been created between Kerry and Netanyahu. The rift came out to the open when Bogey Ya’alon launched his personal attacks on Kerry.

“But while we were focusing on efforts to soften the Israeli side, announcements of new housing tenders in settlements limited Abbas’ ability to show flexibility. He lost his trust in the talks. The worst part was when Netanyahu said Abbas had agreed to a deal of prisoners for settlement construction. It wasn’t in line with the truth.

“Abbas went into these talks a skeptic. Actually, they were all skeptics, but his doubts focused on Netanyahu. The Oslo Accords were Netanyahu’s creation. Abbas watched how Oslo opened the door to 400,000 Israelis to settle beyond the Green Line. He wasn’t willing to bear it anymore.

“And there were other things. Israel presented its security needs in the West Bank: it demanded complete control over the territories. This told the Palestinians that nothing was going to change on the security front. Israel was not willing to agree to time frames – its control of the West Bank would continue forever.

“Abbas reached the conclusion that there was nothing for him in such an agreement. He’s 79 years old. He has reached the last chapter of his life. He’s tired. He was willing to give the process one final chance, but found, according to him, that he has no partner on the Israeli side. His legacy won’t include a peace agreement with Israel.

“In February, Abbas arrived at a Paris hotel for a meeting with Kerry. He had a lingering serious cold. ‘I’m under a lot of pressure,’ he complained. ‘I’m sick of this.’ He rejected all of Kerry’s ideas. A month later, in March, he was invited to the White House. Obama presented the American-formulated principles verbally – not in writing. Abbas refused.

“The claim on your side that Abbas was avoiding making decisions is not true. He wasn’t running away, he was just stuck.”

Livni’s bravery

Tzipi Livni claimed after the talks’ collapse that Abbas wouldn’t move an inch from his known positions, while Netanyahu showed flexibility.

“It’s true that Netanyahu moved (away from his positions), but he wouldn’t move more than an inch. We had to put a great deal of effort into this. When we tried to move Abbas, we couldn’t. As we said, he was shutting down, locking into his positions. ‘I made a lot of concessions,’ he said. ‘The Israelis didn’t know how to appreciate it,’ he complained.”

What concessions?

“He agreed to a demilitarized state; he agreed to the border outline so 80 percent of settlers would continue living in Israeli territory; he agreed for Israel to keep security sensitive areas (mostly in the Jordan Valley – NB) for five years, and then the United States would take over. He accepted the fact that in the Israeli perception, the Palestinians would never be trustworthy.

“He also agreed that the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and agreed that the return of Palestinians to Israel would depend on Israeli willingness. ‘Israel won’t be flooded with refugees,’ he promised.

“He told us: ‘Tell me if there’s another Arab leader that would have agreed to what I agreed to. I won’t make any more concessions until Israel agrees to the three following terms:

Outlining the borders would be the first topic under discussion. It would be agreed upon within three months.
A timeframe would be set for the evacuation of Israelis from sovereign Palestinian territories (Israel had agreed to complete the evacuation of Sinai within three years).

Israel will agree to have East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

The Israelis would not agree to any of the three demands.”

This is understandable, though. Any one of these demands would’ve caused the Netanyahu government to collapse.

“That’s true, these are very painful compromises. If you’re looking for failures – this was one of them: We couldn’t confront the two sides with the painful solutions that were required of them. The Israelis didn’t have to face the possibility of splitting Jerusalem into two capitals; they didn’t have to deal with the meaning of a full withdrawal and the end of the occupation.”

Abbas refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“We couldn’t understand why it bothered him so much. For us, the Americans, the Jewish identity of Israel is obvious. We wanted to believe that for the Palestinians this was a tactical move – they wanted to get something (in return) and that’s why they were saying ‘no.’

“The more Israel hardened its demands, the more the Palestinian refusal deepened. Israel made this into a huge deal – a position that wouldn’t change under any circumstances. The Palestinians came to the conclusion that Israel was pulling a nasty trick on them. They suspected there was an effort to get from them approval of the Zionist narrative.”

What was Tzipi Livni’s contribution to the talks? What was Yitzhak Molcho’s? (Molcho, Netanyahu’s lawyer and relative, was appointed Livni’s babysitter)

“Tzipi Livni was a heroine. She fought with all of her might to promote the agreement. Molcho was a big problem for her. He undermined her repeatedly. Every time she tried to move forward, he stopped her.”

(In these very pages in February, the secret axis Molcho started with Bassil Akel, a former Palestinian official and a friend of Abbas, was revealed. Akel, who lives in London, met with Molcho secretly from time to time behind the backs of the other negotiating partners. At a certain point, Molcho claimed that he had reached a series of understandings with Akel. These understandings evaporated on their way to Abbas.)

Ariel’s provocations

The last chapter of the American initiative was borderline pathetic. Kerry realized an agreement would not be reached. He tried to at least get an agreement on both sides to continue the talks. The Palestinians demanded the prisoners Kerry promised them, including Israeli-Arab murderers. Netanyahu demanded something in return. Kerry persuaded Obama to give him Pollard.

And then came the Housing and Construction Ministry’s announcement of building tenders for more than 700 housing units in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood.

Peace saboteur Uri Ariel, Israel’s housing minister. Photo by Israel Matzav

Abbas lost interest. He turned to the reconciliation talks with Hamas and to the question of who would inherit his mantle. According to the Americans, this is the reason for his recently launched public front against Mohammed Dahlan.

The Americans understood from their Israeli counterparts that the Gilo tenders announcement was an intentional act of sabotage, one of many, by Housing Minister Uri Ariel, an extremist who opposes any agreement with the Palestinians. Ariel denied it. He claimed he didn’t even know about the tenders.

From an American perspective, what will be the consequences of stopping the talks? Will the threat of a boycott against Israel increase?

“It’s hard to predict. The international community, especially the European Union, avoided any action during the negotiations. Now, a race will begin to fill the void. Israel might be facing quite a problem.

“As of now, nothing is stopping the Palestinians from turning to the international community. The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end – whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.

The Palestinians reached the conclusion there was nothing for them in the talks (Photo: AFP)
The Palestinians reached the conclusion there was nothing for them in the talks (Photo: AFP)

“The boycott and the Palestinian application to international organizations are medium-range problems. America will help, but there’s no guarantee its support will be enough.

“There’s a bigger problem threatening Israel in the immediate future. This is a very concrete threat. If Israel tries to impose economic sanctions on the Palestinians, it could boomerang. The West Bank economy will collapse, and then Abbas will say ‘I don’t want this anymore. Take this from me.’ There’s great potential for deterioration here, which could end with the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli soldiers will have to administer the lives of 2.5 million Palestinians, to their mothers’ chagrin. The donating countries will stop paying up, and the bill of $3 billion a year will have to be paid by your Finance Ministry.”

Abbas and Saeb Erekat chose to make comments about Holocaust Memorial Day this week. They said it was the greatest crime in history. Netanyahu didn’t believe them. The right slammed Abbas with accusations that he was a terrorist and a Holocaust denier.

They asked not to give their opinion on Netanyahu’s comments. “Your extreme right wing is very happy with the collapse of the peace talks. They won’t accept any gesture, or any positive comment from the other side.”

What will the United States do now?

“We’re taking a time-out to think and reevaluate. We mean to draw our own conclusions. Kerry’s willingness to return and make an effort depends on the sides’ willingness to show seriousness. Abbas’ conditions were rejected out of hand by Israel. Perhaps someone in Israel will reconsider their positions? Why is a three-month settlement construction freeze such a big deal? Why not draw a map? You have a great interest in an accord reached by mutual consent, rather than one reached as a result of external pressures. Drawing a map should’ve been stage one.”

Will Kerry present the principles you formulated; the map, the security arrangements, the agreement’s components?

“It’s still a possibility. The other possibility is a period of reassessment, reevaluation.”

In 1975, after then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin rejected the American demands, then-secretary of state Kissinger announced a period of reevaluation. The diplomatic and security relations between Israel and the United States were frozen. In Israel, Rabin was hailed as a hero. The right worshipped him. After several months, a ladder was found to allow Rabin to climb down from the tree.

The Obama administration is soft. It’s different from the Nixon administration, as Kerry is different from Kissinger.

What kind of reevaluation will Kerry choose?

“We don’t know. Kerry hasn’t decided yet.”

Translated from Hebrew by Yaara Shalom.

Catastrophe Ahead After Peace Talks Collapse

By Rami G. Khouri, Agence Global
April 30, 2014

NEW YORK—The Israeli decision to break off negotiations with the Palestinians last week after the Palestinian groups Fateh and Hamas announced their reconciliation agreement reveals the darkest and most destructive sides of Israel and its Western backers vis-a-vis their declared desire for a negotiated peace agreement: their inconsistency, insincerity and hypocrisy. You might say these are normal attributes of any political actor, which is true to some extent. But here this kind of behaviour also advances the accusation that Israel and the United States in particular only wish to negotiate peace on their terms, and not on terms that treat the Palestinians and Israelis equally.

I say this because in their reconciliation announcement Fateh and Hamas made it clear that the unity government and the desired subsequent negotiations with Israel would be based on three important principles that have long been an Israeli and American demand, and that the Quartet in 2006 specifically demanded from Hamas: that Hamas adhere to three conditions of non-violence, adherence to previous agreements, and acceptance of Israel’s right to exist. On this basis, it was assumed, Palestinian negotiators would speak for all Palestinians, and Israel, the United States and other countries could deal with Hamas.

Well, the national unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas last week precisely mentioned that Hamas had agreed to these three demands; the UN Secretary General’s special representative to the Arab-Israeli peace process, Robert Serry, made it clear after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the national unity government would respect the existing PLO commitments that include recognition of Israel, non-violence, and adherence to previous agreements. In other words, the UN sees the Palestinian unity agreement terms as having met the conditions that the Quartet set on 30 Jan 2006.

So what did Israel do in return for Hamas meetings its conditions, with the United States in tow? It immediately ended the negotiations and told President Abbas that he had to choose between peace with Israel or a “pact” with Hamas. The American government, predictably, described Palestinian unity as “unhelpful.” So when the Israelis and Americans suddenly came face-to-face with a united Palestinian leadership that openly and explicitly accepted the Israeli-American terms for diplomatic engagement, the Israelis-Americans ignored their own terms for talks and totally shattered the most recent attempt to negotiate peace.

This kind of reckless hypocrisy or straightforward lying is bad enough in itself, but it is made even worse by the fact that on the Israeli side there are ministers in the Netanyahu government who reject the Quartet’s three conditions: They reject Palestine’s right to exist; they reject previous agreements (most notably the Oslo Accords); and, they reserve the right to use violence against Palestinians and other Arabs and to create their envisioned Greater Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

This only reminds us yet again why the peace negotiations that the Americans have mediated single-handedly have failed to produce any meaningful results during the past 20 years, since the Oslo agreements. It is because the Israelis deem it appropriate to set the terms they wish for the negotiations, and to ignore those same terms when they wish, while the United States meekly follows the Israeli position.

The consequences of this are enormous, starting with the likelihood that few will continue to believe what the United States tells them is Washington’s position on the issues. The United States will not be trusted as a mediator for some time, and Palestinians and other Arabs perhaps will think twice about “giving up violence, accepting previous agreements and recognizing Israel’s right to exist,” because it now seems that doing so would only result in diplomatic punishment.

Palestinians also expect to get punished for joining UN organizations, whose main aim in life is to spread adherence to the rule of law and non-violent conflict resolution.

The Quartet has now officially died a merciful death in the wake of the United States abandoning the three key principles it had once demanded of Hamas. Netanyahu for his part responded to Hamas’ acceptance of these three critical principles by announcing on April 24 that he would vastly expand Israeli settlements by approving the construction of another 350,000 homes for Jews only, and prepare for “widespread death and destruction through bombing campaigns and full-scale ground invasions.”

The many consequences of this series of events will take some time to clarify, but they are likely to be destructive. Political violence is sure to escalate on various fronts, and the idea of negotiating a comprehensive peace agreement will probably remain dormant for some time. The United States will find it very difficult to regain the key parties’ trust, which is essential for any serious mediation.

A reasonable conclusion is that Israel prefers violence, chaos and perpetual warfare to the terms of non-violent negotiations and respect for agreements that it had itself set in 2006.

Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon. You can follow him @ramikhouri.

If Kerry fails, what then?
By Sam Bahour and Tony Klug, Le Monde Diplomatique
April 08, 2014

Suppose the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, fails to cajole the Israeli and Palestinian leaders into finally ending their conflict. What would happen next?

A tsunami of pent-up animosities is likely to be unleashed, with each side holding the other responsible for the failure and calling for retribution. Attempts to indict and isolate each other would gather pace and violence might return with a vengeance. The toxins let loose will inevitably have global spillover.

For over twenty years process has trumped outcome, but it is now in danger of being out-trumped itself by the total collapse of the only internationally recognized paradigm for a solution to the conflict. A new international strategy urgently needs to be devised and made ready as an alternative to the prospect of failed bilateral negotiations. Any such strategy should be rooted in a vision of the endgame, based on the principles of a rapid end to the Israeli occupation and equality between Palestinians and Israelis.

Our proposal takes as its starting point the need to resolve two crucial ambiguities regarding Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza, its rule over the Palestinians and the colonization of their land. Resolving these matters are essential to achieving a final resolution of the conflict.

First, is it, or is it not, an occupation? The entire world, including the US, thinks it is, and therefore considers the Fourth Geneva Convention and other relevant provisions of international law to apply. The Israeli government contests this on technical grounds, arguing that the Geneva Convention relates only to the sovereign territory of a High Contracting Party, and that Jordan and Egypt did not have legal sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip (respectively) when they previously governed these territories.

On the basis of this reasoning, Israel has maintained that the Geneva Convention does not strictly apply, and therefore it is not legally forbidden from annexing, expropriating and permanently settling parts of the territory it captured during the 1967 Arab-Israel war.

But at other times, the Israeli authorities rely on the Geneva Convention to validate its policies, particularly with regard to treating Palestinians under Israel’s jurisdiction but outside its sovereign territory differently from Israeli citizens, citing the provisions that prohibit altering the legal status of an occupied territory’s inhabitants.

This ambiguity has served the occupying power well, enabling it to cherry-pick the articles of the Geneva Convention and have the best of both worlds, while the occupied people has the worst of them.

Second, at what point does an occupation cease to be an occupation and become a permanent or quasi-permanent state of affairs? Nearly half a century on, during which time significant alterations have been made to the infrastructure of the territory, is it realistic for the Israeli occupation still to be deemed simply an ‘occupation’, with its connotation of temporariness?

Our contention is that the occupying power should no longer be able to have it both ways. The laws of occupation either apply or do not apply. If it is an occupation, it is beyond time for Israel’s custodianship — supposedly provisional — to be brought to an end. If it is not an occupation, there is no justification for denying equal rights to everyone who is subject to Israeli rule, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Successive Israeli governments have got away with a colossal bluff for nearly 47 years. It is time to call that bluff and compel a decision.

The Israeli government should be put on notice that, by the 50th anniversary of the occupation, it must make up its mind definitively one way or the other. A half a century is surely enough time to decide. This would give it until June 2017 to make its choice between relinquishing the occupied territory — either directly to the Palestinians or possibly to a temporary international trusteeship in the first instance — or alternatively granting full and equal citizenship rights to everyone living under its jurisdiction.

Should Israel not choose the first option by the target date, it would be open to the international community to draw the conclusion that its government had plumped by default for the second option of civic equality. Other governments, individually or collectively, and international civil society, may then feel at liberty to hold the Israeli government accountable to that benchmark.

The three-year window would be likely to witness vigorous debate within Israel and induce new political currents that may be more conducive to a swift and authentic deal with the Palestinians over two states, probably within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative for which there is polling evidence of growing support among the Israeli population.

We need to break free of the divisive and increasingly stifling one-state-versus-two-states straightjacket that tends to polarize debate and in practice ends up perpetuating the status quo — which is a form of one state, albeit an inequitable one. The aim of our proposal is to bring matters to a head and to enable people to advocate equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis, in one form or another, free of the implication that this necessarily carries a threat to the existence of the state of Israel.

To be clear, this is not a call for a unitary state. How Israelis and Palestinians wish to live alongside each other is for them to decide and the indications still are that both peoples prefer to exercise their self-determination in their own independent states. Our proposal would not foreclose this option. It would remain open to the Palestinians to continue to agitate for sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, for a future Israeli government to relinquish these territories and, in extremis, for the Security Council to enforce the creation of two states through the UN Charter’s Chapter VII mechanism. However, until this is finally determined, equal treatment should replace ethnic discrimination as the legitimate default position recognized by the international community.

A similar principle should extend throughout the region. The stateless Palestinians — not just the four million living under Israeli military occupation but also the five million who have been living as refugees in the surrounding states for the past 66 years — suffer discrimination all over the Middle East. In almost every Arab state, their rights are severely curtailed and they are mostly denied citizenship, even where they, their parents or their grandparents were born in the country. Whatever may have been the original explanation, their continuing limbo status is shameful so many years on.

The bottom line is that until the Palestinians, like the Israelis, achieve their primary choice of self-determination in their own state (if ever they do), they should no longer, in the modern era, be denied equal rights in whatever lands they inhabit. In the case of Israel and its indefinite occupation, this means putting an end to the ambiguities that have lasted for far too long.

Notes and links

For some of the many posts on this subject put: Kerry talks into the Search button on top right hand of homepage.They include:

Summary of the 9-Months Talks: Unprecedented Settlement Development

Israel Preparing to take the Palestinian Authority to the Hague, Jewish Press, April 11th, 2014.

Apart from providing Israeli government lawyers with information, Shurat HaDin’s only other role in destroying Palestinian terrorism through bankruptcy appears to be a threat to take the Bank of China to court. We hope their principal funders, eg Wulz , don’t go bankrupt in the attempt.

Shurat HaDin says it has used a Facebook campaign since April 2013 to gather serious allegations for potential concrete complaints against Palestinian leaders to the ICC. JPost, April 6th, 2014

Israeli lawyers group Shurat HaDin unmasked as Mossad proxy, Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, October 2013.

The director of a supposedly independent group of Israeli lawyers privately admitted to a US embassy official it acted as a proxy for the Israeli government, a leaked US embassy cable shows.

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