There is bad news, my friends, and good news. I am going to start with the bad because it is imperative that it be noted. I don’t want to leave this to the end of my posting:
There are reports — as yet unconfirmed by the Obama administration or Kerry specifically — that Martin Indyk will be playing a “key role” in Israeli-Palestinian Arab negotiations.
And THAT is very bad news.
Today’s JPost alluded to a tweet he put out:
“So Kerry did it. By George he did it! Negotiations will resume forthwith. Now watch the naysayers declare there’ll never be an agreement.”
One gets the sense of what this man is like from these few words. His political view lacks reality. There is not a scintilla of humility regarding the difficulties of achieving peace or the huge gaps between the parties that would need to be bridged. No subtlety — just “charge forward” arrogance. An arrogance that would be/has been the underpinning for pressure on Israel without compunction.
Elsewhere in the JPost today, I read reference to a comment made by Dennis Ross, who had been Clinton’s special envoy to the Middle East, and had observed that Arafat said “no” at Camp David, “because fundamentally I do not believe he can end the conflict. We had one critical clause in this agreement, and that clause was, this is the end of the conflict. Everything he has done as leader of the Palestinians is to always leave his options open…For him to end the conflict was to end himself.”
The point of the author of this article was that Abbas may be like Arafat, and indeed this is most probably the case. But I would make a different point here. Dennis Ross, as that special envoy years ago, put enormous pressure on Israel to make concessions. Once Ross left his position and began to write about how he had seen Arafat as someone who would never make peace, he earned my eternal enmity. To serve his goal — making his boss happy, advancing his own career, whatever it was — he was ready to pressure Israel into untenable positions.
And I firmly believe that Martin Indyk is cut from precisely the same cloth. This spells Danger, with a capital “D.” Indyk’s goal would be pleasing Kerry and Obama, showing the world that an “agreement” is possible. (This is clear from that tweet.) Israel’s rights? Israel’s security? Mere trifling matters.
Actually, it’s even worse than this. Indyk has espoused positions that are antithetical to Israel’s legitimate interests and rights for several years now:
At a Hebrew University lecture in 2004, he said:
“Israel has to realize that it will need to make territorial…concessions and turn into a city-state: one large city from the north to the south, with a big park in the north and one in the south.”
That same year, as reported by the JPost, Indyk said:
“If you want peace with Syria you have to give them back the Golan Heights.
“If you do not want peace with Syria keep the Golan Heights, but do not expect to have peace with Syria and do not expect them to sit quietly and do nothing and not support Hezbollah…
“Don’t expect them to simply accept it, because you wouldn’t if you were them…It doesn’t belong to Israel, it belongs to Syria.”
When he had just assumed his position as head of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution (also in 2004 — a busy year for him), he “conducted a campaign to dispatch U.S. troops to intervene in the Middle East conflict. Indyk has gone so far as to say that the U.S. should sent troops or create a protectorate over the West Bank and Gaza.”
Protectorate? To protect the poor Palestinian Arabs from Israel, of course.
I could go on, and on. But I’ll end with a mention of the fact that Indyk has strong connections to the New Israel Fund.
We do not know if there will really be peace negotiations (and I address this below). But this is no time to take chances. A pro-active response is essential NOW, before there is a chance for negotiations to begin. And this falls to American citizens.
Please, without delay, contact your elected members in Congress and protest that Indyk cannot be an honest broker — a neutral mediator — in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His appointment as a negotiator in the Israel-PA talks would put Israel at an unfair disadvantage.
For your Congresspersons:
For your Senators:
I will tell you here what I always say: Numbers count. Your doing this matters. And it will be helpful if you share this broadly and ask others to also act.
Communication should be polite but firm. No speeches, no long histories. A few simple facts and an expression of deep concern about the current situation.
In addition to your own elected representatives, messages, where possible, to the following are also important:
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Phone: (202) 225-5021
Fax: (202) 226-7269
Ed Royce, Committee Chair
Phone: (202) 225-4111
Fax: (202) 226-0335
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair, Subcommittee on the Middle East and Africa
Phone: (202) 225-3931
Fax: (202) 225-5620
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Robert Mendez, Chair
Phone: (202) 224-4651
Fax: (202) 228-3612
And to spread the word further — letters to the editor, op-eds, talk-backs on websites, call-ins to radio talk shows. This may be the first of many battles that will need to be fought in the coming weeks and months.
If you are serious in your concern for Israel, please participate to the maximum.
And now as to the reasons why there may be no negotiations:
Almost immediately after I had posted yesterday, a number of articles showed up on the Internet that seem to confirm the direction I had already taken tentatively.
According to Elhanan Miller, writing in Times of Israel (emphasis added):
“The Palestinian leadership has not yet decided to return to negotiations with Israel and will only do so if its basic demands are met…
“Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of only two Palestinian officials authorized to comment on the negotiations with Israel (along with PA presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh), told Palestinian radio that the PA leadership was currently engaged in dialogue with the American administration, and would only announce the resumption of negotiations depending on the outcome of those talks.
“A number of issues were still pending for talks between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington later in the week, during which a framework for negotiations would be created, he added.
“Abed Rabbo’s comments, which directly contradict Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement Friday of Israeli and Palestinian agreement to resume talks, reflected an atmosphere of deep Palestinian skepticism regarding the prospect of negotiations with Israel. An op-ed Sunday in the official Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam dubbed US Secretary of State John Kerry ‘a master of self-deception’ claiming that both sides agreed to meet in Washington only to please the American official, knowing that nothing of substance would come of the talks.”
That Al-Ayyam op-ed seems to confirm that my source, who had said yesterday that everyone realized Kerry was an idiot, knew what he was speaking about. (Please forgive me, that I have cited this a couple of times now. It gives me a certain perverse pleasure to be able to remain professionally above the fray and quote someone else on Kerry’s capabilities.)
This also seems to confirm the observation — made by Danny Dayan and others — that all that was going to happen in Washington was “talk about talking.” Not negotiations.
It does appear that — for all of Kerry’s fancy footwork in trying to reassure the PA without having guarantees from Netanyahu — in the end nothing but a commitment from Israeli officials will do for Abbas. That is precisely what he has been saying for some time now. Kerry just wasn’t listening, or thought he could dance around this.
We see this reflected in yet another article — “Resumption of Peace Talks Not Assured” by Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh (emphasis added):
“Disagreements that blocked Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for the past five years have not been fully resolved, despite US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent announcement of progress, and there’s no clear path to a resumption of talks.
“Palestinian officials said Sunday their key demand remains: Ahead of any talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must accept Israel’s pre-1967 frontier as the starting point for drawing the border of a future state of Palestine. They say Kerry’s renewed endorsement of that frontier as a baseline in closed-door talks is not enough, and that they need to hear from Netanyahu.
“It’s not clear if this amounts to last-minute maneuvering or if the Palestinians will walk away if Netanyahu refuses to accept that formula, as he has done repeatedly. On Sunday, Netanyahu’s right-wing allies were adamant that Israel would not budge, and Netanyahu appeared to be trying to lower expectations about any future negotiations…
“…two Palestinian officials and two senior PLO figures — speaking on condition of anonymity because they wanted to avoid running afoul of Abbas’s edict [not to talk] — said a resumption of talks is not a done deal. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are to meet in Washington in coming days or weeks, but they’ll have to hold more talks about the talks, just as Kerry did in six shuttle missions this year because gaps remain, the Palestinian officials said.”
I laughed when I read in the above article that Abbas “is skeptical of Netanyahu’s willingness to negotiate in good faith.” For he is totally devoid of good faith in diplomatic relations. An easy out for him: “Me? I want so much to move ahead. And I would proceed, but hesitate to do so because of my doubts about the other side. Sorry.”
Fact is, however, that here we face reality. What Abbas is demanding of Israel is something he knows that Israel will not and cannot concede to. That’s not “lack of good faith” on Israel’s part, but rather taking an appropriate stand. As Abbas cannot and will not demand less, there’s nothing to talk about. Negotiations between the parties that have a real prospect of succeeding are impossible.
Avigdor Lieberman (chair, Yisrael Beitenu and head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee) has it right when he says it’s time to admit that there is no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It can only be managed, and it’s important to do that.
He believes that negotiations — conducted in a spirit of reality, not illusion — can be helpful in managing the conflict.
And today we have more of the same from an ever-widening circle of media sources. The lead paragraph in the main story on the front page of the JPost this morning read:
“Two days after US Secretary of State John Kerry, standing alone in Amman [with neither representatives of Israel nor of the PA joining him], announced the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks, Palestinian Authority officials began again raising preconditions for the talks. Meanwhile, Israeli officials continue to insist Jerusalem made no commitments regarding the 1967 lines or a settlement freeze.”
At the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Netanyahu declared that the Palestinian Arabs would have to make concessions during negotiations to ensure Israel’s security and protect her vital interests.
I could go on, quoting Reuters, for example, which has now added this piece of information:
“…In another setback to the negotiators’ meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned first to seek cabinet-level approval for the prospective new talks, which were announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday.”
So much for Indyk’s “By George he did it!” Not quite.
So precisely what has been going on? All the astonishment, the hullabaloo, the rush of anxiety. I kept wondering in the beginning what I was missing. What was it Kerry did to get Abbas to agree to come to the table? Did he possess some sort of magic?
Herb Keinon (“Wanting it more than the parties themselves,” cited above), has it right:
Keinon cites Obama, who said: “The United States will put our full weight behind this effort…We will support those who make difficult choices in pursuit of peace. But let me be very clear. Ultimately the United States cannot impose a solution, and we cannot want it more than the parties themselves.”
This, writes Keinon, “ran like a motif through both the Clinton and Bush administrations: the idea that — try as it may — the US can’t want a peace deal more than the parties.
“US Secretary of State John Kerry, apparently, does not believe this. Here is a man who will not take no for an answer.”
Kerry has made countless trips to the Middle East. He has undoubtedly wheedled and cajoled and threatened and bribed. Who knows what else. Because he was convinced that he saw light at the end of the tunnel and that with enough energy he could make it happen.
At last, the parties said, “All right! All right! Enough already. We’ll come to Washington and have talks about the talks.”
And Kerry jumped the gun and announced this with a tone that suggested a great deal more had been achieved. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that it all began to unravel very quickly.
I would never say — given Kerry’s persistence — that it is certain that there will be no negotiations. Unlikely, but who knows. What I can say with certainty is that Kerry’s way of going about it will not yield success, even if the parties should, briefly, sit together at the table.
I do believe that John Kerry is potentially a dangerous man. Because he is not in touch with reality, but persists in attempting to mold facts to fit his image of what should be.
And it should come as no surprise to us that he would choose another dangerous man — Martin Indyk, who is of like mind — to work with him on the “negotiations.”
It will not be time to breath easy until the Washington meeting has been cancelled, or until it has been held without resulting in an agreement to negotiate.