US Secretary of State John Kerry’s thankless task of trying to recreate a peace
process between Israel and the Palestinians is completely absurd when one simply
considers that the parties involved should be demanding that the process begin
rather than resisting it. The conflicting parties have much more at stake than
does the United States. It is in the direct interest of both Israel and the
Palestinians to resolve their conflict, as soon as possible. It seems quite
abnormal and counterproductive that the two sides keep searching for excuses and
reasons not to negotiate rather than the opposite.
Mitchell failed at the same task as Kerry because he put most of his mediation
energy on trying to get the parties into the same room. It seems that Kerry is
trying to do the same, though with a lot more energy and enticements. Overall,
however, the goal or modus operandi of his strategy seems to be the same – get
the parties to sit face-to-face and negotiate.
Kerry is right when he
states that negotiations have a dynamic of their own and it is impossible to
predict what the final outcome might be once they get started.
challenge remains, as it has been over the past four years – how to get the
Kerry might also be working on a different, more
productive approach. If it is true that he has given the parties “homework” and
expects to receive serious answers from them on positions regarding permanent
status issues, then it would be correct to say that negotiations are in fact
beginning. It is not necessary for the parties to the conflict to be sitting in
the same room for negotiations to take place.
Kerry’s shuttling back and
forth between the parties, carrying the sides’ positions on the issues in fact
enables the mediator to do just that – mediate and propose bridging solutions to
close the gaps. While moving back and forth and shaping possible agreements,
Kerry seems to be adding additional ingredients to help shape a more positive
reality on the ground for both sides.
The economic enticements and
incentives are not a replacement for a political process, but an enabling
feature that can have positive effects for both sides. Economic improvement for
the Palestinians will bring not only economic benefits for them but also
benefits for Israel, as Palestinians purchase a large majority of their goods
from Israel. It will also serve to prevent deterioration of the security
situation on the ground, as economic stability, employment and a more positive
financial situation tends to be a stabilizing factor.
in advancing additional settlement activity while negotiations are underway will
not determine Israel’s position on which areas should be annexed in the
framework of territorial swaps, and will also be an enabling factor that will
improve the negotiating environment.
There is no room for another interim
agreement, and Kerry is correct in seeking to reach a comprehensive agreement on
all of the issues. As he shuttles back and forth it might be wise to use the
negotiating tactic of the “deposits” former secretary of state Warren
Christopher received from Yitzhak Rabin on the Golan Heights.
Christopher that if Syria would meet Israel’s demands on security and on issues
of normalization and real peace then Israel would be willing to withdraw to the
June 4, 1967 border on the Golan Heights.
Christopher then used the
“Rabin deposit” to seek from the Syrians suitable answers regarding Israel’s
As we know, Rabin was killed and that negotiation then fell
through. The methodology could be used once again on the Israeli-Palestinian
agenda to help shape an agreement which will require not only territorial swaps
between the parties; there will be a need to swap points among the specific
The most common area of swaps and trade-offs that have been
proposed over the years is Israeli concessions in Jerusalem in exchange for
Palestinian concessions on refugees. The idea is to arrive at a package deal
that includes all of the issues and gives each side enough of what it needs so
that both sides can live with the agreement that is reached.
gets all of its demands, but both sides get enough of what they need so that a
majority of both peoples are able to support the whole agreement.
parties were to negotiate each issue separate from the others, it is very likely
that they would not be able to reach a full agreement. Just as in public opinion
research, on both sides, we know that if asked about specific concessions on
separate specific issues a majority of Israelis and Palestinians reject them.
However, when the same concession are part and parcel of a full comprehensive
peace agreement that puts an end to the conflict and an end to all claims, the
majorities on both sides accept the total agreement.
Success in the
mission of negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian agreement requires secret
negotiations. The less the public knows the more likely the negotiations can
reach positive outcomes. This is extremely frustrating because the public wants
to know and the journalists work very hard to disclose what is really
Public negotiations are impossible because neither side has
the internal political strength to negotiate freely without having to constantly
negotiate with their own side, even with their own camp within their own
The publics will have their chance to review and debate the
agreement because there must be a democratic process, referendum, elections or
whatever democratic process each side determines for itself because the
agreement must gain clear, direct legitimacy from each society. Negotiations
need not be voted on or vetoed.
That is counter-productive to reaching an
Few people have confidence that Kerry will
succeed. They have history on their side. Israelis and Palestinians
should be encouraging Kerry to succeed and should be praying for his success. He
is doing it for us, not against us. Peace is in our interest, both sides, and we
need him to succeed where all others before him failed. History can actually be
a tool to learn from. We don’t have to continue to make the same errors as in
Conflicts between nations and peoples do end and are resolved
and genuine peace between our two peoples is a real possibility. After 20 years
of negotiations the ingredients of the deal are well known and can be pieced
together into an acceptable comprehensive peace agreement. Kerry needs our
support and encouragement and we need for him to continue until he reaches an
The author is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine
Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the
initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad