Some Israeli and American realities, from the perspective of various media--
First, are three items from a recent edition of Ha''aretz.
One of the lead items in the Hebrew language internet edition told of plans to build a 9-story yeshiva for newly religious Jews in the problematic neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Another spoke of the precident breaking transfer of government money to four Reform rabbis, two of them women
And the cartoon showed Kerry, the Obamas and Mahmoud Abbas celebrating the New Year, with dismal looking Bibi and angry Sara Netanyahu and Miri Regev on the sidelines..
The items say as much about the newspaper as about the news. The yeshiva is a long way from opening its doors, the first shovel of dirt beginning construction, or even the approval of plans by all the authorities having a say..The opposition will be intense. It will come from East Jerusalem Arabs, the Palestinian Authority, the US and other friends of Palestine, and from secular Israelis, especially the kind who read Ha''aretz. The article reports that professional planners of the Jerusalem Municipality opposed the project, but that the Municipality intends to go ahead with it.
Cynics will see it as another example of the ostensibly secular mayor caving in to ultra-Orthodox rabbis who control some 30 percent of the votes in local elections. Secular Israelis will sneer and scream, with the support of MKs and Ministers from Meretz, Labor, Yair Lapid''s There is a Future, and Tsipi Livni''s The Movement. They will object to planting a yeshiva for those who do not serve in the IDF, work, or pay taxes, in a place likely to cause problems for those who do serve, work, and pay taxes.No doubt the supporters will claim their religious freedom and property rights, along with overseas money that will finance the project. Most likely it will come from religious enthusiasts who also have not served in the Israeli military, and do not spend any more time here than an occasional holiday and the ceremonial opening of the yeshiva that will carry their family name.The money promised from the public treasury for Reform rabbis is a minor drop compared to what goes to the ultra-Orthodox and the settlements of the religious nationalists. It will not have much impact on a population that is overwhelmingly secular or Orthodox, but it is a bow toward the pluralism favored by Finance Minister Lapid, facilitated by the absence of the ultra-Orthodox in the government. There will be ritual grumbling by the Orthodox Jews of Jewish Home, but they recognize their dependence on Finance Minister Lapid.The cartoon is significant by appearing in Israel''s left wing paper, usually reporting about the misery of Palestinians and trying to shore up the prospects of peace. Here it is sharing in the view that Kerry and Obama have tilted toward the Palestinians, and away from the prevailing core of Israeli politics.An article from the New York Times ought to be read along with that cartoon from Ha''aretz. The New York Times is generally in the same corner as Ha''aretz, not a great friend of the Israeli right wing. However, its description of the Kerry effort is less than enthusiastic.
"The framework document is aimed at achieving enough of a convergence on core issues that the two sides can make headway toward a formal peace agreement leading to an independent Palestinian state. It is expected to be short, perhaps fewer than a dozen pages and without detailed annexes. It would not be signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and would most likely take note of reservations the two sides have about some elements. . . .“It is clear that Kerry cannot get a comprehensive ‘final status agreement’ in his nine-month timetable, so now he appears to be looking at a ‘framework agreement’ instead,” said Elliott Abrams, who was a senior official in President George W. Bush’s National Security Council.“I don’t think it will work,” added Mr. Abrams, who asserted that the two sides would not make wrenching and unpopular compromises for the sake of a “piece of paper” that fell short of an actual peace treaty."
The article quotes various others expressing guarded optimism, but that from a senior Palestinian negotiator is contingent on a positive Israeli response to the issue of refugees.
"Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian expert in national security at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, was more skeptical.“The framework idea is like reinventing the wheel,” he said. “It is buying time, without a solution, extending the negotiations for another year.”
John Kerry is over his head. Despite reports of having the help of 160 experts in the Middle East, he is out of tune with deep rooted Israeli sentiments. If, as reported, he will press for the uprooting of some West Bank settlements, there will be strong objections not only from the settlers and their supporters, but from others who see him serving the demands of Palestinian leaders for a state that is Judenrein. The nagging issue of Palestinian incitement against Jews, in media and in schools, should get more attention from the US Secretary of State if he wants Israeli cooperation.
Palestinian incitement against the illegitimacy of Jewish claims to Jerusalem or anything else is a major impediment. It is currently wrapped up in the issue defined by Netanyahu as Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state..
If acknowledging the rights of refugees to return to their homes is a essential demand of the Palestinians, its rejection is a key element of an Israeli consensus that extends considerably beyond the right side of the political spectrum.
The issue of refugees as clear as anything serves as the point where something very important to many Palestinians comes into direct conflict with something very important to many Israelis.
Without dealing with that, Kerry cannot claim to have made significant progress.
Jerusalem, and borders can be relatively easy. A bit here, a bit there, and it should be possible to deal with those matters.
Iran may be the major problem for Kerry. Bibi is not happy with him or his boss, and will find it compatible with his constituency to dig in his heels on refugees, Palestinian incitement, Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Each of them may qualify as a deal breaker.
While Kerry makes a frequent point that the situation demands an agreement now, he comes up against both Israeli and Palestinian concerns that the timing is absolutely wrong. Whatever Barack Obama may have contributed to Arab Spring by that Nobel winning speech in Cairo, the evolution of chaos throughout the region, and especially along Israel''s northern and southern borders, strengthens Israelis who oppose conceding land or a military presence to Palestinians, and make Palestinians wary of violating Muslim conventions by accepting the legitimacy of Israel.
There are optimists who see the essence of a Palestinian-Israeli agreement in what was discussed by Arafat and Barak in 2000, Abbas and Olmert in 2008, and now featured in leaks from the Kerry round of talks. However, the present Israeli government may not be as generous as those predecessors, and Abbas has shown no sign of being more flexible than when he rejected the proposals made by Ehud Olmert.
The cartoonist of Israel Hayom has no doubt why John Kerry working so hard for something that appears so elusive. He shows a proud, but somewhat spacey Kerry holding a Nobel certificate, with less than happy Mahmoud and Bibi holding their national flags, with Bibi''s a bit larger than Mahmoud''s.