There are two articles here about John Kerry who worked assiduously to start negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The second is a revealing speech Kerry gave about his efforts, thwarted by the Israeli government’s insistence on establishing Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory. Here he admits Israel ignored USA pressure.
Wielding his scalpel, Uri Avnery dissects the twists, turns and contradictions of Israeli logic which have argued anything in order to avoid serious negotiation. He puts the blame for the failure this time squarely on Israeli shoulders but notes along the way how pitiful John Kerry’s contribution has been. A witty – and sobering – assessment.
Peace Now’s Settlement Watch presents the bare facts of settlement expansion during the peace talks. As Peace Now says, they show:
“Not only that the construction and the announcements of settlements were destructive for the American efforts and for the faith between the two sides, it also created facts on the ground that proved more than anything else that the Netanyahu Government did not mean to go for a two states solution but rather acted in order to strengthen the Israeli control over the Occupied Territories.”
Further comments and reflection on the end of the peace talks: PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Saeb Erekat’s statement on the end of the nine months negotiations period; Faysal Mikdadi’s moving reflections “Betrayal Tinged with Greed and Stupidity”; a Ha’aretz piece “Kerry: Israel risks turning into an ‘apartheid state'”; and Richard Silverstein’s “Kerry Says the ‘A-word’ and Abbas says the ‘H-Word'”
Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, has delivered his last report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. In it, he returned to the issue of corporate responsibility for Israel’s power to maintain the occupation and break international law. Diplomats don’t have the answer; opposition to complicit corporations plus popular resistance and with UN backing may be the only way.
A Safeguarding Jerusalem Bill, which stipulated that 66% of Knesset members must agree to negotiations before the status of Jerusalem may even be mentioned, has gone before the Knesset. It has been proposed by the tiny United Torah Judaism faction but has picked up support from Cabinet members. It seems improbable that it will progress, but this Knesset has passed more improbable bills.
An interview with Norman Finkelstein provides an informed, thoughtful, hard-headed and provocative perspective on what he agrees is “a potentially historic moment”. International public hostility to Israel’s occupation, backed by an international legal consensus, coincides with the Palestinians now being “the weakest they have ever been…” And yet, Finkelstein finds room for optimism and wonders if a popular Palestinian movement can yet arise to force a positive outcome.
Nicola Nasser reports on the immense pressure Kerry has exerted on the Palestinians to force them to the “peace” talks. Uri Avnery, on the other hand, despite all the difficulties and sheer imbalance of power between the sides, focuses on Kerry’s ability to inspire trust and is cautiously optimistic. “The alternative is too dismal to contemplate,” he says. But that, of course, is no guarantee of anything…
Tony Klug argues that President Obama’s visit may not be quite the disaster from a Palestinian point of view that so many feel it was. By appealing to ordinary Israelis over the heads of their leaders he emulated what Sadat did thirty-five years earlier. Maybe it will prove an important step in a changing the mood in Israel. Uri Avnery shares the optimism about Obama’s speech – “perfect” from an Israeli point of view – but he sees it as utterly lacking in empathy for the Palestinians
Saeb Erekat, negotiator for the PA, said at the weekend that they will work with international officials to restart negotiations with Israel, strengthened by their new UN status. Meanwhile, President Abbas says they will ask the ICC to prosecute Israel if it continues to violate agreements and Hamas vows to go its own way (see post below) .
The return of Palestinians killed in Israel was part of the deal to end the mass hunger strike, although PM Netanyahu now presents it as a humanitarian move which will help the peace process. Mahmoud Abbas has reminded him that it is the continued building of settlements which is the obstacle to talks. Reports from BBC news and Al Jazeera.
Fig-leaves for the institutional players, a naked emperor for the wishful thinkers, all metaphors for the ‘peace process’ convey it is not real. The ICG focuses on new forces, like religion, on possible new actors , Palestinian diaspora, settlers, and on agents, like the Quartet, to be discarded.
The dead-locked status quo in Israel/Palestine relations is forcing new tactics. 1) Some Palestinians have opted for a stategy of separatism (though no national liberation movement has succeeded without allies). 2) The ICG suggests new partners including settlers and Palestinian diaspora while Blue White Future advocates “constructive unilateralism”
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour, CNN, broadcast last Friday, Ehud Olmert says “I had to fight against superior powers, including millions and millions of dollars that were transferred from this country (the U.S.) by figures which were from the extreme right wing that were aimed to topple me as prime minister of Israel. There is no question about it.” When will he name names?
The Palestinian Authority has asked the UN Human Rights Council to conduct a formal inquiry into the impact of the settlements on Palestinians. Egypt has added its voice to this request. Israel has dismissed it as a move by the PA to avoid negotiations.
The second headline here – ‘200 rockets hit Israel’ – is misleading; it should be ‘200 rockets reach Israeli airspace’, where they were quickly detonated by Iron Dome (see post below). Meanwhile, the Dome provides the Haaretz editorial team with a good metaphor for the position of the Israeli government – sheltering behind its mega-expensive military system rather than engaging with political reality.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet with Canada’s Stephen Harper on March 2nd on his way to meet President Obama. The group Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East has prepared this list of ten questions that should be put to him there – or anywhere.
Another proposal on the website this week for the future of Israel/Palestine in sharp disagreement with Wolman and Halper but sharing the view that the political status quo is intolerable. Here Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds unversity and former representative of the Palestinian National Authority, argues the best plan is a confederation of ethnic communities under Israeli rule in which Palestinians have full civic rights and freedoms.
On the last stage of his European tour, in which he is seeking to increase diplomatic presure on Israel to stop settlement building, the PA President tells Russia’s RT that Israel might withdraw from a few settlements and try to persuade the world that this has changed the status quo of occupier and occupied. Which it won’t. But he remains willing to negotiate on the two things that matter – borders and security.
Despite widespread cynicism, talks to set up talks between PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho have continued in Amman. Media reports in the west and Israel – few and dismal, Arab press – many and more feisty. Examples from JPost, Ma’an, Naharnet news