In the wake of Kerry’s framework plan, one can’t help but recall Arafat’s last conversation with Clinton, three days before his term ended. The PA Chairman told Clinton that he was “a great man.” “The hell I am,” Clinton responded. “I’m a colossal failure, and you made me one.” Will Kerry let Abbas make the same of him?
Yesterday, reports surfaced from under the diplomatic rug that Abbas left last week’s meeting with Kerry fuming. The reason? Classic, Palestinian rejectionism. According to Al Quds, Abbas became furious when Kerry presented him with a paper that supposedly adopts the Israeli positions for a peace agreement.
The Palestinian leader threatened to boycott negotiations after Kerry revealed that he would have to make Bet Hanina the Palestinian capital while excluding the Jordan Valley. Worst of all, he would have to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. It’s a wonder the US Secretary of State emerged from the meeting unscathed.
Good luck to Kerry. He will need it.
His plan is somewhat strained from the Israeli end of the table too. Just this week Kerry was yanked one long step back while taking two forward. Amid Kerry’s plans for his AIPAC policy conference address, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Deputy Minister Danny Danon can present an alternative agenda at the Likud convention March 23—what will likely turn out to be a debate of Kerry’s proposed peace deal and determining a way to block it.
Danon hopes to use the convention to pass proposals that oppose territorial concessions. He has repeatedly shot down the notion that Israel will buckle under pressure from the US; no divided Jerusalem, no pre-67 lines. Danon isn’t the only minister to take a whack at Kerry. In the last two months, three members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet — Yuval Steinitz, minister of intelligence and strategic affairs; Naftali Bennett, minister of the economy; and Moshe Yaalon, minister of defense — have also knocked his efforts.
With Bibi’s team conflicted and Abbas in arms, how likely is it that Kerry’s framework plan will pan out? Not very.
In order for a settlement to be negotiated there has to be some sort of agreement between both parties—which there isn’t. More importantly, both parties need to recognize the legitimacy of each other’s national aspirations–which the Palestinians don’t.
Abbas’ attitude is strikingly reminiscent of Arafat’s during the Camp David Summit in 2000. At the time, Abu Mazen, one of the lead Palestinian negotiators, confirmed that even before the summit the Palestinians “made clear to the Americans that the Palestinian side is unable to make concessions on anything.” This makes sense, given that the hinge of their entire strategy has been to topple Israel.
Palestinian intransigence is based on the inability to accept Israel as a Jewish State. To them, Israel must remain a state with no ethnic identity so that the supposed two-state solution can eventually become a one state solution–Palestine.
Their leader, Abbas, is welcomed by Kerry as a constructive partner instead of being called out for his epic incompetence. In the short term, this may allow for Kerry to strike a deal, even if it proves as worthless as past interim agreements. In the long term, this risks making a mockery of Kerry and of peace itself.
The temptation to make a name for himself shouldn’t blind Kerry from the Palestinians’ unflinching resistance to Israel and their underlying, ideological motivations. What’s more–with two decades of failed Oslo negotiations, Bibi’s camp isn’t convinced there is reason to make the concessions that Kerry demands.
Only through mutual recognition can a real peace treaty materialize. Israel can’t afford another failed agreement, ending in hostilities and bloodshed. Kerry need not fear reiterating the bottom line to Abbas: acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, quit offloading responsibility and prepare for real compromise. Israel, the US and the Palestinians deserve more than another colossal failure.