Kerry, Livni, Erekat in peace talks.
(photo credit: Screenshot)
John Kerry’s recent statement that Israel would not want a third intifada should
the present round of peace talks fail has caused a small firestorm in
Those on the Right accuse Kerry of encouraging Palestinian
violence, while those more in the political center see Kerry acting as a mafia
don: nice peace and economic growth you’ve got there Israel – shame to see it
all blow up. Make a deal – or else.
There are two aspects of Kerry’s
statement which really should be understood for their enormous
At the same time Kerry was warning Israel to make a deal or
face certain terror, he categorically described West Bank settlements as
“illegitimate” in the eyes of the US government.
While his position is
nothing new, one has to immediately ask why Secretary Kerry did not say that
potential violence against civilians (his “third intifada”) would be
Since the end of World War II, the nations of the world
have through the UN and various treaties attempted to make the willful attack on
civilian populations a major no-no. Such attacks are considered war crimes and
even in the US, the very definition of an overseas terror attack is one directed
at a civilian population for the purpose of influencing political
Why then did Secretary Kerry not state the following: “No
matter what should come of the present talks, there is no room, no justification
for attacks directed towards civilian targets.
The US will not stand by
should Palestinian groups – whoever they may be – use the success or failure of
the current talks as a pretext for harming civilians. Attacks against civilians
in buses, restaurants or other venues are illegitimate in the eyes of the US
The obvious reason Kerry suggested a possible intifada
instead of demanding that such an uprising not occur is that he believes that a)
the Palestinians have legitimate grievances against the Israelis and b) he sees
violence as one of the tools – like negotiations – the Palestinians have at
their disposal for moving forward their cause.
In this respect, Kerry is
very like Yasser Arafat, who used negotiations, threats and actual violence to
push Israel in directions that served his overall goal of either destroying
Israel or flooding it with several million Arabs through a supposed “right of
Kerry’s lack of denunciation of violence against civilians
dovetails beautifully with his encouragement of prisoner releases; these
terrorists were just doing their jobs in moving the Palestinian cause forward –
when the time comes, why should they not be sprung from jail? I doubt Kerry
would dare anger his colleagues by arguing for the release of the aged Sirhan
Sirhan from California jail. Yet, his support and active encouragement of
releasing Palestinian murderers is no less painful for families here than would
his support for Sirhan’s release be for Bobby Kennedy’s family.
second critical point related to Kerry’s comments concerns the low esteem in
which he holds the Palestinians.
He did not suggest that failed peace
talks might lead to Gandhi-like civil disobedience or mass fasting in protest;
no, he suggested the one thing he associates with Palestinians:
He immediately assumed and suggested that failed talks mean
terror waves, even though military leaders on the ground and up through the
Israeli defense minister have stated categorically that they do not see an
intifada on the immediate horizon.
While many experts have been caught
off-guard in the past – think Arab Spring – the bottom line is that Israelis do
not expect Palestinian violence to surge even if the talks fail. Kerry’s
knee-jerk “if you fail with these talks, there will be blood” shows that the
secretary of state does not have a very respectful view of his Palestinian
“peace partners,” as he assumes that if they don’t get what they want the only
tool in their toolbox is violence.
Secretary Kerry has traveled a great
deal and accomplished nothing. I had the chance to think about his failed
efforts while stuck in a traffic jam caused by his motorcade making its way to
his Jerusalem hotel the other night.
Secretary Kerry, like a dozen or so
of his predecessors, will fail unless he holds the Palestinians to accepted
international norms of behavior and treats Israel as an ally and not as a member
of his protection racket. He might take some time to also explain to the
Palestinian people that if they want an internationally recognized state, then
violence against civilian targets is “illegitimate” and will not be
President Obama could have done the same during his visit to
Ramallah earlier this year; he chose not to, ostensibly because his views are
the same as those of his secretary of state.
The author is and IP
consultant. He and his son were wounded in a suicide bombing in 2002. Several of
those involved in the attack were released from Israeli jails in 2011.
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