When I wrote in a recent post that it is unconscionable for Israel to have to negotiate under threats and menaces, I made no mention of the one person who ought to know better, and upon whom Israel depends to be a fair broker, and yet who hung the boycott threat over Israel even as he was prodding us to agree to his framework for “peace”. I am talking about Secretary of State John Kerry himself. In the last few days he has revealed himself to be not only not a fair broker, but by hanging over Israel the threat of an international boycott he turns out to be a bully – and a petulant bully at that. He is also a coward for not applying the same pressure to the other side of the conflict, the Palestinians.
It all started with Kerry’s seemingly innocent musing out loud about the potential disaster facing Israel if the peace talks fail – in Munich of all places:
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Kerry said he believes in the chances of reaching an accord between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and reiterated his warning of the potential fallout should talks fail. He warned that the current relative security Israel enjoy could prove to be an illusion that would change entirely should negotiations not yield an agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
Kerry said he was utterly certain that the current status quo was “not sustainable… It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity. There’s a momentary peace.” But that would end if the talks failed, he said, noting that already Israel was facing increased delegitimization and boycott threats. (A series of banks and pension funds in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Holland have announced a cessation of dealings with Israeli banks and companies in recent days because of those firms’ West Bank activities.)
Saying that the stakes were “enormously high” for Israel, Kerry said failure would damage its capacity to be “a democratic state with the particular special Jewish character that is a central part of the narrative and of the future” by creating a “bi-national structure” in which people “demand rights on different terms.”
Failure, he said, would not only cause a backlash from the “disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community,” but also exacerbate the boycott threats Israel faces.
“The risks are very high for Israel. People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure,” he said. “We all have a strong interest in this conflict resolution.”
Dry Bones, in his cartoon displayed above, expresses Kerry’s mafia-like “offer that can’t be refused” by Israel implied in this not-quite-threat. Where is Kerry’s condemnation of the boycott threat? Why did he not equally threaten the Palestinians with disaster should the talks fail? Why is he threatening Israel with turning it into a bi-national state? It seems patently obvious that Kerry has become a spokesman for the Palestinian cause rather than for the neutral United States. The fact that the Danish Ambassador to the EU expresses similar sentiments in no way ameliorates Kerry’s position. It only exacerbates it if anything.
Adding insult to injury, added to this poisonous atmosphere is the extremely worrying information that the US’s “security assurances” to Israel in these peace talks involve taking UN Resolution 242 off the table: (h/t DavidinPT)
Secretary Kerry took Israel’s primary requirement — “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force” (the language of UN Resolution 242) — off the negotiating table.
But Mr. Kerry told his Jewish audience at the White House, “One of the lynchpins of the current peace process is the separation of Israel’s security assurances from the general negotiations,” He told them security assurances would be guaranteed in a “separate agreement” with the U.S. In that sentence, he eviscerated possibly the last remaining fundamental promise of the international community to the State of Israel.
Under Kerry’s new formulation, Israel’s sovereign legitimacy and secure boundaries do not have to be recognized by the Arab states, the Palestinians or anyone else; just determined, accepted and guaranteed by the United States. And for how long is unclear. Palestinian leaders have indicated that they might be amenable to international forces for two or three years, but then they want everyone out. That should be just about the time the U.S. decides it wants to end another war “responsibly.”
The Israeli government vociferously objects to the notion of international troops filling in the security gap that would be created if Israel withdraws from vital territory in the face of continuing hostility from the newly independent State of Palestine as well as from the Arab states. That is not an objection American Jews should try to paper over, because the consequence of failure will accrue to Israelis, not to American Jews.
Secretary Kerry the “bad cop” and Ambassador Indyk the “good cop” are threatening, cajoling and playing all the angles in an effort to create American Jewish leverage to replace the policies of the government of Israel with the policies of the Obama Administration.
Israel was not backward in coming forward with criticism of Kerry’s disgusting remarks. Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon said:
“We respect the [US] secretary of state but we will not negotiate with a gun put to our head,” Danon said.
Danon called Kerry’s words an “ultimatum”, and said that true friends do not set ultimatums.
“Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “Moreover, they will not achieve their goal.”
… Netanyahu also said that boycotts push the peace process further away by causing the Palestinians “to adhere to their intransigent positions,” and that “no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the State of Israel, especially the security of Israel’s citizens.”
Other ministers also castigated Kerry for his comments:
“You can’t force the State of Israel to negotiate with a gun to our heads while we are discussing the most critical of our national security interests,” Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz said.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, whose remarks on the peace process last week nearly led to a government coalition crisis, said Israel ”expect(s) our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier.”
Poor John Kerry. Once again he is shown to be rather thin-skinned, and while he can dish out the insults, he can’t take them. The Israeli reactions to Kerry’s barely disguised threats were received with extremely bad grace in America, and his retinue of supporters castigated Israel for their temerity in criticising their idol.
White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice lashed out via her Twitter account Monday night at Israeli criticism of US Secretary of State John Kerry and his efforts toward brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Rice called personal attacks in Israel directed at the secretary “totally unfounded and unacceptable.”
In a series of tweets, Rice wrote that “John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity [is] rock solid.” She also said the US government “has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
“Secretary Kerry has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Sunday, in a statement denying Kerry’s support for economic measures against Israel.
“Just last year while briefing foreign ministers at an EU conference in Vilnius on peacemaking efforts, he urged them to refrain from these measures,” Psaki said.
If that is so, then why did he use the boycott threat to twist Israel’s arm? At the very least that is disingenuous and dishonest behaviour.
Israeli criticism of Kerry’s statements came from the press as well as the politicians. Israel Hayom has a series of pointed articles on the subject:
David Weinberg says that Kerry is not an equal-opportunity threatener:
Over the last 48 hours, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a series of apocalyptic warnings. While trying to sound like an analyst and a friend, he has, in effect, threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with boycott and isolation and even (Palestinian) violence if Israel doesn’t facilitate the continuation of Kerry’s peace process by acceding to Kerry’s terms.
In so doing, Kerry is setting up a situation of self-fulfilling prophecy, and backhandedly legitimizing the horror scenarios if and when the “peace process” breaks downs.
Needless to say, the warnings that Kerry has directed at the two sides are not equal. He is not an equal opportunity threatener.
Israel has borne the brunt of Kerry’s behind the scenes pressures, and his public exhortations and admonitions. The American secretary of state has repeatedly returned to the “oy-vey-Israel-is-going-to-be-boycotted” theme, and more than once threatened our economic prosperity. [...]
By contrast, Kerry has never once publicly warned the PA leadership that this is their last chance for a Palestinian state. He has never publicly warned Abbas that the Palestinian Authority would forfeit its international largesse and ‘economic prosperity’ if he (Abbas) doesn’t “demonstrate moderate leadership” by accepting Kerry’s proposals.
Getting real tough with the Palestinians just isn’t politically correct, you see, and it is anyway so much more fun to beat up publicly on Netanyahu.
And what has been demanded of the Palestinians? What will be demanded as part of the Kerry proposals? In my view, the answer is nothing–nothing at all. In a recent trip to the region I found universal agreement that in the last year corruption in the PA has increased greatly. The United States has not reacted in any way, thus delivering the message to Abbas that we do not care.
So that’s the picture: in return for coming to the negotiating table, and now for staying at the table, we overlook everything else the PA/PLO does. We overlook the illegitimacy of the government, the glorification of terror, and the spreading corruption. The clear U.S. message is that nothing really counts but sitting down with Kerry and the Israelis.
President Bush once noted the “soft bigotry of low expectations” in our domestic context, and the term is useful here. For it is bigotry to believe that more cannot realistically be expected from the Palestinians.
Read the whole article for a perceptive insight into the American view of the Palestinians.
Richard Baehr explains the American political mindset which is guiding Kerry and his team, a mindset aided and abetted by biased or ignorant journalists like Tom Friedman of the New York Times; a mindset which is leading them to eventually blame Israel for the collapse of the talks. It is a story which is unfolding in front of our eyes.
Let us assume the talks break down. Assume the PA decides not to agree to the compromises they are asked to make — ending the demand for a right of return of refugees to Israel, giving up any future claims against Israel, acknowledging Israel as the Jewish state, and accepting any of the modest security arrangements Kerry offers up in the near term that are crucial to Israel. Then one of three things will happen: Kerry will announce that the negotiations have broken down, and say the parties are too far apart to bridge the gap that now exists. Or the secretary will signal his frustration that Palestinians have been unable to make the called-for compromises the Americans have proposed (the ones that everyone knows are needed to make a deal). Or the secretary will announce that negotiations have broken down and signal his frustration that Israel could not have been more forthcoming about settlements and willing to go halfway to ease Palestinian concerns.
Which do you think it will be?
Here are the hints: Kerry has warned Israel of a new intifada if the talks collapse. (Is this another way of saying, “Bring it on”?) Kerry has warned of new momentum for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, especially in Europe, if talks break down (sort of like telling Israel you brought this on yourself, see if I care). Kerry and other State Department and administration officials have complained that Israelis are influencing members of Congress and American Jews on both the peace talks and the Iran sanctions legislation. Imagine that. And maybe think about the dual loyalty issue that President Barack Obama and his people are spreading.
[...] In any case, if and when the talks collapse, a narrative is ready on why the peace process broke down. And only one side will be blamed.
But capping all the Israeli criticism of Kerry, there is none better than David Horovitz, the editor of Times of Israel, who slams Kerry as “The Petulant Secretary Kerry” sarcastically adding in his sub-heading:
How dare those stubborn Israelis deny him his nine-month peace treaty
Here are some highlights (although the whole article is one big brilliant highlight):
“US Secretary of State John Kerry may feel heartfelt concern about the growing campaign to delegitimize Israel and to boycott it. One of the least smart and least constructive ways to tackle the danger, however, is by issuing an anguished public prediction that this is what awaits Israel if his peace effort fails. But then the indefatigable secretary has consistently displayed a grievous absence of smarts when it comes to Israel, and the wider Middle East.
Kerry’s public musing in Munich at the weekend about Israel’s “illusionary” thinking on peace and prosperity sounded like the moaning of a petulant child: I want my nine-month peace treaty, and I want it now!
The true path to Israeli-Palestinian peace lies not in attempting to strong-arm reluctant, mistrustful leaders to sign up to this or that latest lawyerly draft of an accord. It runs, rather, via the gradual marginalization of extremists and the encouragement of moderates. It requires ending the vicious incitement against all things Israeli, not just in Gaza but also in the West Bank, and the promotion of hierarchies that advocate reconciliation.
And good diplomacy requires telling Mr. Abbas that there will no Palestinian state so long as he insists upon the “right of return,” because Israel, the only place on earth where the Jews get to determine their own fate, is not about to commit demographic suicide. It requires telling Mr. Abbas to change the tone of what’s taught in his schools, broadcast on his TV channels, and published in his newspapers, to reflect the reality that there are competing claims to this narrow strip of land and that neither of the competing peoples is going anywhere.”
Good diplomacy, Mr. Secretary, means that you most certainly should address the boycott and delegimitization issue in public — to make plain that it is unconscionable to misrepresent Israel as some kind of illegal entity; to explain that the notion that the Jews, uniquely, have no right to a state is an apartheid argument; to underline that historic Jewish Israel was revived by international mandate and that it was those who spoke for mandatory Palestine’s Arab residents who prevented the simultaneous establishment of a first-ever Palestinian state 66 years ago, and to urge that those who purport to support the Palestinian interest use their influence to encourage both sides toward viable positions that can enable long-term co-existence.
In short, the most profound concerns that Israelis have about the fragility of their security and prosperity stem somewhat less from their failures, Mr. Secretary, than from yours.
While I don’t agree with Horovitz’s stance on the settlements, he cannot be faulted for his words about Kerry’s one-sided stance and his ridiculous bullying and pressuring of Israel while giving the Palestinians carte blanche to carry on with their rejectionism.
This is a sure-fire way to continued conflict in the Middle East. In which case Kerry is probably a front-runner for the next Nobel Peace Prize.