Tuesday, May 07, 2013

After Kerry's Peace Plan With Palestinians Failed, Talking To Russia About Syria Will Be A Breeze

Although there is still a long way to go, Kerry said Tuesday, “I don’t think you can underestimate the significance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Arab Emirates, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and others coming to the table and saying, ‘We are prepared to make peace now in 2013.’ ”
Netanyahu cool to Arab land-swap initiative, Washington Post, May 1, 2013

Kerry of course was right: you cannot underestimate how worthless his meeting with members of the Arab League actually was, but you can overestimate it -- and that is exactly what Secretary of State Kerry did.

One only has to look closely at Kerry's statement above to realize that in his excitement to claim a victory in his self-imposed mission to bring peace to the Middle East, Kerry was quick to point out the Arab countries who accepted the the idea of renewed talks -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan -- but left out the one group that mattered: the Palestinians themselves.

US Secretary of State Kerry with members of Arab League
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and friends, after a multilateral meeting
with the Arab League delegation at the Blair House in Washington, D.C.,
on April 29, 2013. State Department photo

To put it simply, as Khaled Abu Toameh writes Kerry Betting On The Wrong Horses. While it is true that Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki was part of the group, and after the meeting the Palestinians did issue a statement -- in English only (which should have been a clue) -- supporting the idea of land swaps, once Palestinians came out against the idea, the Palestinian Authority did an abrupt about-face:
First, the Palestinian Authority said that it was only prepared to discuss "minor" adjustments to the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Later, as the denunciations grew, the Palestinian Authority took yet another step backwards, saying it was opposed to making any "down payments" to Israel before the peace talks resumed.

In other words, the Palestinian Authority is not prepared to talk about any territorial concessions to Israel before the Israeli government accepts the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution

...Although the Palestinian Authority leadership had in the past hinted that it would be willing to accept the land swap idea, it is now obvious that it would never be able to win the Palestinians' support for such a proposal.
As a result, the Abbas regime has returned to demanding a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines -- lines which historically were never official borders.

Rather than mark an impressive victory in Kerry's initial foray into Middle East negotiations, Kerry's failure emphasizes the difficulties involved in trying to get Abbas and the Palestinian Arabs to the negotiating table.

As Toameh points out, the 2 key points we learn from this are:
  • The Palestinian Authority is unable to tell their people that peace with Israel requires compromise from both sides.
  • The Arab world, including the wealthiest and most influential countries, have no influence on the Palestinians.
Keep in mind that Aaron David Miller, an advisor to numerous administrations, predicted back in January in his piece about The Three State Solution, that Kerry would take this route:
John Kerry -- a man who really does believe in diplomacy -- will want to do something serious on the Israeli-Palestinian issue because he believes it's important, because others will urge him to, and because that's what secretaries of state are supposed to do. But he'll have to deal with the Noah's Ark problem. Since he's not suicidal, he won't open up a dialogue with Hamas -- but dollars to donuts says he'll start talking to the Turks, the Egyptians, the Qataris (all led by Islamists with influence in Gaza) about ways to influence the organization.
Sure enough, that is what Kerry did.

But neither Kerry nor Miller anticipated the depth of the Palestinian refusal to take any action to make such negotiations happen, much less make them a success.

Kerry probably couldn't wait for something easier -- like going to Russia to talk about intervening in Syria.

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