Kerry, Settlements and Bad Faith

As peace talks between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are expected to restart on Wednesday August 14th, much attention has been given to the US Secretary of State’s comments in regard to the Israeli government’s decision to allocate further assets to construction and development projects in Judea and Samaria. While the timing of this choice may be discussed, Mr. Kerry has delivered a statement that leaves little doubt to the partial position he chose to adopt. When the Israeli position is defined by the term of “bad faith”, it is clear that even one of Israel’s closest partners has bought into the Palestinian discourse. In this period of negotiations, more than ever, it is necessary to deconstruct what “bad faith” really stands for. Such impulsive judgments demonizing Israel’s policy only serve the purpose of comforting the Palestinians in their long held positions while making a comprehensive agreement increasingly unattainable.

In international relations, and especially in the Near East, the concept of “bad faith” should be attributed to actors whose actions repeatedly go against their stated objectives. The government’s approval of further settlements’ funding does not come as a spoiler to the long established Israeli policy of pushing for diplomatic talks based on mutual recognition and basic security needs.

On the other hand, Mr. Kerry’s words come as a moral boost to the PA whose actions have rarely been in line with their stated goal of peace.

Bad faith finds its core in the rejectionist spirit with which Palestinians and Arabs look at the Near Eastern modern history. Their inability or unwillingness to successfully recognize the legitimate existence of the Jewish State and its right to live in peace must be considered as the essential spoiler to any negotiated agreement. For this reason, in the Arab mindset, the creation of a state for the Palestinians is based on a destructive psychology of confrontation with Israel rather than the sincere hope to terminate the long lasting conflict.

Bad faith is intrinsic to the discourse calling for pre-1967 borders between Israel and the Palestinians. The rhetoric of this demand omits the fact that prior to 1967 the entirety of land that should today be hosting a state for the Palestinians was in Arab hands. Arab armies controlled Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem while no action was taken to give any portion of these regions to an independent Palestinian entity. The concept of pre-1967 borders is instrumental in understanding that the Palestinian and Arab objective is to weaken Israel by pushing for unjustified demands. These demands are, in fact, baseless as pre-1967 borders represent the factual occupation of Judea and Samaria by Arab armies.

Bad faith is found in the PA’s continuous and unapologetic use of Palestinian lives to further their victim status on the international level. The Palestinians’ macabre use of death in Judea and Samaria, which positions the killing of Jews as a success and the death of Palestinians as martyrdom is in itself the greatest sign of divide between peace declarations and facts on the ground. US backed negotiators should publically state that Palestinian violence against Israelis is the motor of instability between the two actors. In this perspective, letting out of jail known terrorists and killers as a Palestinian demand is the proof par excellence of the bad faith in regard to the respect given to civilian lives.

Bad faith is at the center of Mahmoud Abbas’ international push for the creation of a state for the Palestinians. By bypassing a negotiated agreement with Israel, the PA’s president took a combative position detrimental to any long-lasting agreement. The UN General Assembly is a perfect podium for anti-Israeli speeches as the international organization regroups the greatest majority of individuals opposed to the Zionist project. By doing so, Mahmoud Abbas effectively changed the nature of the negotiations by diminishing Israel’s ability to draw a coherent policy.

Bad faith is the beating heart of the pro-Palestinian organizations working worldwide to deprive the State of Israel of its legitimacy. These groups may not be directly involved in any kind of negotiation but their impact on public opinions and policy makers is a major one as it fills the forums debating the issue with hateful messages and biased propaganda.

For these five reasons, Mr. Kerry’s concept of “bad faith” in the light of additional assets being allocated to development projects in Judea and Samaria appears to be overlooking more than 60 years of history. Bad faith is found in every single act of terrorism covered by the veil of the so-called resistance; bad faith is at the center of each military training given to underage Palestinian kids and of each hateful lesson given to the youth that should ideally be the stepping stone to a more stable region.

The settlements are only taken as an additional point onto which the PA can grab since a true peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would result in the demise of this illegitimate political body.

About the Author
Riccardo Dugulin is an independant international affairs analyst. He holds a Master in International Security from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and has worked in leading think tanks in Washington DC, Beirut and Dubai and has held the position of security coordinator for a security assistance firm.
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