I celebrated my birthday last week. With friends and family visiting from the U.S., it seemed more like an all-week affair rather than a one-day celebration. Out for jazz one evening, several evenings out for dinner and dessert, a walk through the Old City and some time at the Wall, an afternoon of wine tasting in the Jerusalem hills. All and all, a fun time and a nice reminder of the delights of contemporary Jerusalem and the surrounding area.
My birthday wish? Easy: I wish that Ministers Bennett and Yaalon and a few others would stop throwing personal barbs and insulting Secretary of State John Kerry, and I wish that Secretary Kerry would stop giving them every excuse possible to do so.
Bennett and Yaalon? They are just beyond any sense of respect and dignity when it comes to how one addresses the chief of foreign affairs, even one you might vigorously disagree with, of the greatest power on earth and the one country that Israel so critically depends on. Express your disagreements? Sure. Personally insult and make insinuations about motivations? Beyond stupid.
Kerry? Needs to take some courses in diplomacy and in psychology. Telling Israelis that they take the good life for granted, that they’ve grown complacent, that they don’t know what is in store for them, that they are living in an illusion, is no way to influence or motivate them to take risks. One doesn’t have to be a genius, or even Secretary of State, to know that.
Lately the Secretary has begun to resemble a low-level New Jersey gangster a la a James Cagney movie. He never says he is going to burn down the building, or blow-up the car, or, God-forbid, harm the kids, but he seems darn close to saying that we’ll have what’s coming to us if we don’t cough up the dough by Friday:
Hey, you, yeah you, better agree or, ya know, someone might do an Intifada against you, not me, but, ya know, somebody might. Hey, ya know, ya got a nice, shiny country there, good business. Ya wanna see that get blown up? I mean, it’s up to you. Me, I ain’t gonna do nuttin’ to ya. I’m just sayin.
Hey, ya got one helluva good business here. Be a shame–I’m just sayin–if nobody came to your store here anymore. Not me, I’d always come, but, ya know, people might stop comin’ if they don’t feel ya dun right. Just sayin. Up to ya. Ya understand?
Hey, you, yeah you, you know what’s wrong with you? You’re soft, that’s what. You’ve had it easy. Everything’s goin great for you. So, you know, ya forget. Ya forget. Ya gotta pay attention, take my advice, or ya know, somthin could happen. I mean, I ain’t do nuttin, but somthin could happen. Pay attention!
Coming from the Secretary of State of the U.S., it’s unseemly. I’m just sayin.
It appears that Secretary Kerry may now be discovering the real obstacle to peace. Just a few days ago The Times of Israel reported that Netanyahu had signaled he would accept the Kerry framework which would require about 20% of the “settlers,” aka Jews, to either be deported from their homes or to live under Palestinian sovereignty.
The “warmongering, right wing” PM, who previously came out in support of a two-state solution, who suspended settlement expansions for 10 months, and who released murderers of Israeli civilians in order to get Abbas to come to the table was risking his coalition and his political future and saying yes.
(Ever wonder why you have to bribe someone who says he wants his state to come to the table to talk about it? Ever wonder how the U.S. could pressure Israel to release murderers of its civilians and then object when Afghanistan releases prisoners?)
The reaction: Palestinians said no, they will never recognize a Jewish state, and their lead negotiator, Saeb Erekat said that his family was in Jericho 5000 years before Joshua. No kidding.
Furthermore, The Times of Israel reported that when, during a tough moment in the talks, Kerry warned Abbas that he could wind up like Arafat, the Palestinian Authority responded by saying that Kerry had thus confirmed that Israel killed Arafat after getting U.S. approval and threatened to take him to the ICC for threatening the President (he is in the eighth year of his four year term) of their nation.
Lead Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni, who is noted for her commitment to a two-state solution and was very involved in former Prime Minister Olmert’s efforts, recently complained that Abbas has become inflexible. Abbas and his people are now complaining about her.
As if to put the exclamation point on who is holding up progress, and where pressure needs to be applied, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation just defeated a proposal to effectively annex Jewish communities in the West Bank and the roads leading up to them. This comes after recently rejecting legislation that would have prohibited the government from negotiating the status of East Jerusalem and Palestinian “refugees.”
My birthday wish, in short: Bennett, Yaalon, and friends: shut up. Kerry: Quit telling us we don’t know and don’t care about what is happening around us and to us, and put the pressure where it needs to be. And, for good measure, Tom Friedman: Write about Asia or something else you have no clue about.