The problem with the “peace process”

The problem is not with how to restart the peace process but with the peace process itself.

Herb Keinon is a very respected political commentator but he fails to focus, as the whole world does, on the heart of problem. The problem isn’t with process, i.e., how to get the people back to the negotiating table. So long as the parties aren’t forced, directly or indirectly, to make substantial compromises, negotiations will go nowhere. The US, EU and UN are trying to force Israel to cut a deal that 75% of Israelis reject and that is an existential threat to Israel. Rather than forcing the PA to compromise, they support their demand for ’67 lines plus swaps, and underwrite all costs of their intransigence. It doesn’t cost the PA anything when they are intransigent or incite violence or preach resistance not peace. By pushing the peace process, they hope to force Israel to capitulate or at a minimum to prevent israel from advancing their hold on Judea and Samaria because this would end the hope that their vision of a deal i.e.,’67 lines plus swaps and division of Jerusalem. They ignore the fact that this deal isn’t enough for the PA who still demand the “right of return”, won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state and won’t sign an end of conflict agreement.

The only viable solution to the conflict is to allow Israel manage the conflict as she sees fit even if the Arabs don’t like it. Israel should be permitted to fashion any solution it perceives as doable even if it doesn’t allow for the creation of a Palestinian state. The object of the exercise should not be to declare a Palestinian state but to resolve the conflict. In effect the world is preventing the resolution of the conflict by demanding a Palestinian state. Ted Belman

Kerry wants more talks; Abbas wants “Palestine” without peace; Netanyahu says “Arab world first.” Six months after breakdown of negotiations, everyone is grasping at straws.

By Herb Keinon, JPOST

The diplomatic process with the Palestinians is stuck, and – judging by recent comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – no one has a realistic idea about how to get it unstuck.

First, Kerry.

The top US diplomat, with a track record of awkward statements about Israel that later need explaining by his spokespeople so everyone really understands what he meant, struck again recently.

In a speech in Washington last Thursday on the occasion of Id al-Adha, Kerry left the distinct impression on many who heard his words that he was connecting a failure to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement to the rise of Islamic State.

Not at all, his spokesman explained a day later: “He did not make a linkage between Israel and the growth of Islamic State, period.”

But that was not the statement which indicated Kerry has no real playbook on how to move the diplomatic process forward. This became clear on Wednesday in Berlin, when he was asked about the Israeli-Palestinian issue during a press conference alongside German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

After stressing his position that “with each new settlement in the West Bank specifically, there is a growing challenge to what we call the peace map,” Kerry repeated boilerplate comments about both sides needing and deserving peace.

“My hope,” he said, “is that it will be possible to get back to a negotiating table because that is the only way to resolve the issues that stand in front of us. The current situation – the status quo – is unsustainable. President Obama said that in his UN speech; I have said that many times. I think most people understand that in order to avoid the challenges of a binational state and the challenges of further deterioration, it is important to try to find a way to negotiate.”

In other words, what was is what will be.

Even though Israelis and Palestinians – working along the Oslo parameters – have negotiated intermittently for 20 years and come up with nothing, Kerry still believes in the magic formula that the gaps on issues of borders and security and refugees and Jerusalem and recognition can be narrowed in direct talks. He ignores the unpleasant fact that after thousands upon thousands of hours of talks, the gaps remain extremely wide, and the trust needed to bridge them much too narrow.

Kerry said in Berlin, “We’re best when we try to work quietly at that [finding a way to negotiate]. And that’s what we’re doing now, and we will continue those efforts, and obviously we understand the urgency of it.”

The problem is that those quiet efforts are in fact so quiet that many people are simply unaware of them, sending them scampering in search of a solution in other directions.

A senior European official told The Jerusalem Post this week, relating to a European idea lambasted by Israel to negotiate with it over “red lines” in the West Bank, that these types of ideas are born of many different elements, including impatience with Jerusalem, the lack of peace talks and “no American leadership.”

This lack of leadership from Washington motivated the Europeans to float a plan reported this week, whereby they would like to negotiate with Israel over what it can and cannot do over the Green Line.

This fueled concern in Jerusalem that if Israel were to agree to this and then cross one of those “lines,” it would be hit with European sanctions.

This proposed European formula dovetails with Abbas’s own plan: getting the world to impose a solution on Israel.

For some time, the assessment in Israel has been that Abbas has given up on believing in the efficacy of the talks, and does not think that by talking to Israel he will get it to make the concessions that meet his minimal goals. So if you can’t get what you want through talks, or through terror –as the second intifada showed – then a third tactic is needed: getting the world to foist a solution on Israel.

But this approach, like the Kerry dream of a solution agreed upon by the sides around the negotiation table, is not grounded in reality.

All the recognition of “Palestine” by Swedish governments and British parliaments in the world are not going to force Israel to withdraw, if it feels that to do so would endanger its security. And, following the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the need for Operation Protective Edge in 2014, many people think just that.

Even after November’s midterm election in the US, and even with all the tension between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government, chances that the US would ever allow a binding resolution pass the UN Security Council compelling Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines against its wishes are slim indeed. Which means Abbas’s efforts are bound to fail.

Isolating Israel, taking Israel to the International Criminal Court, getting some academics to boycott their Israeli counterparts – this is all bad and bothersome and annoying, but it will not force the country to do that which it feels will place it at risk. And with the Middle East crumbling before their eyes, and the precedent of the Gaza withdrawal still in the nation’s collective memory, a not-insignificant part of the nation believes that such a withdrawal would indeed put their security at risk.

While in the past, the appraisals in Jerusalem were that Abbas was not interested in talks, his recent speeches – including his “Israel is committing genocide” speech at the UN last month, and his call Friday on Palestinians to prevent Jews from desecrating the Temple Mount – have led to an updated assessment: he wants a state, without peace. “Our analysis of Abbas’s game plan now is that he wants ‘Palestine without peace,’” one official said.

“He wants to divorce the establishment of a Palestinian state from ending the conflict.

He is saying, ‘We have a right to declare our state, and it is not connected with the peace process.’ He is saying, ‘We have a right to the state, and negotiations with Israel are irrelevant. We want a state, and peace is a separate issue.’” According to the official, this is an important conceptual shift. If in the past the idea was that a Palestinian state with Israel would also mean peace, now the assessments in Jerusalem are that he wants the state, but that his strident rhetoric indicates he is not interested in the peace.

While trying to get international recognition for Palestinian statehood, the official pointed out, Abbas is now abstaining from using the language of reconciliation, and is increasingly using the language of militancy and maximalist demands.

The reason for this “Palestine without peace” approach is simple. If Abbas can get a state without negotiations – which would mean there is no peace deal – then there will be no need for the Palestinians to have to make the wide-ranging concessions Israel demands of them around the negotiating table.

The conclusions being drawn in Jerusalem from this assessment are that Abbas is not at all interested in returning to talks, and that those pressing for a formula to somehow restart the negotiations would do well to keep that in mind.

Which leads to Netanyahu’s path for getting the process unstuck, a path that looks as unrealistic as those being pushed forward by Kerry and Abbas: the Arab world first.

According to this approach, which he articulated clearly during his UN speech last month, the paradigm for peace needs to be reversed: instead of negotiating a peace deal with the Palestinians, which will then lead to a comprehensive deal with the Arab world, reverse the order.

First reach accommodation with the Arab world, which will then push and prod and cajole and encourage the Palestinians to eventually make their own deal with Israel.

And the reason this may be possible, Netanyahu said in the UN, is because “after decades of seeing Israel as their enemy, leading states in the Arab world increasingly recognize that together, we and they face many of the same dangers, and principally, this means a nuclear-armed Iran and militant Islamist movements gaining ground in the Sunni world.”

Netanyahu continued: “Many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world.

But these days, I think it may work the other way around, namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli- Palestinian peace. And therefore, to achieve that peace, we must look not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah but also to Cairo, to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere.”

Sounds wonderful. The only problem is that it does not seems to have any traction on the ground, as the Arab world is not chomping at the bit. Discreet security and intelligence cooperation at the governmental level is one thing, but public cooperation with Israel that could open up diplomatic avenues which might eventually include an agreement with the Palestinian Authority is something else entirely.

To hear Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi earlier this month push the 2002 Saudi peace initiative – which places reconciliation with the Palestinians first, and only then wider peace with the Arab world – is not to discern any change of paradigm.

And to hear Jordan’s King Abdullah II talk this week of Israel killing Palestinians without compunction does not bespeak of an evolving attitude toward the Jewish state. “If we, as a Jordanian state in cooperation with an Arab and Islamic coalition, are fighting extremism within Islam, and the Israelis are killing our people in Gaza and Jerusalem every five minutes, then this is a problem,” he said on Monday.

And those are two leaders with whom Israeli cooperates, and cooperates closely – but primarily only far from the public eye.

And as far as the Arab publics are concerned, the Saudi MBC-TV network – as the Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh wrote earlier this month – was forced to apologize to its millions of viewers after using the name Israel, not Palestine, on an illustrative map for the popular Arab Idol singing contest.

The name Israel appeared because two of the contestants were Israeli Arabs.

An uproar ensued at the “indiscretion,” and the network folded, saying the use of “Israel” was the result of a “technical error.” This does little to strengthen Netanyahu’s argument that a confluence of common interests is now bringing about a greater understanding in the Arab world toward the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s paradigm of cooperation and collaboration and rapprochement with the Arab world as the key to peace with the Palestinians seems as realistic as Abbas’s belief that a solution can be imposed on Israel, or Kerry’s apparent belief that if you just bang hard enough and long enough on the rock of negotiations, then a river of peace will burst forth.

Still wanted: A realistic approach.

October 25, 2014 | 12 Comments »

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  1. “The diplomatic process with the Palestinians is stuck, and – judging by recent comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – no one has a realistic idea about how to get it unstuck.”

    The problem is not, however, that the peace process is ‘stuck.’

    The problem is that it’s assumed that that’s a bad thing.

    The problem is the assumption that the process has even the potential to LEAD to peace, when the likelihood is far greater that it will lead to WAR, possibly of hemispheric dimensions.

    The peace process has about as much in common with peace

    — as processed cheese has in common with cheese.

    In both instances, the processed product is a cheap substitute for the real article.

    The flavor is bland, the nutritional content is negligible, and — no matter what you take it with — it’s certain to leave you not only unsatisfied but also, odds-on, with indigestion.

    The only reason the grocer keeps on stocking the dreck is that it has a long shelf life & doesn’t need refrigeration.

    — But this is a reason to buy it???

  2. OK. Short and sweet.
    Muslims and their co travelers want all Jews dead. Peace shmease. Their sole desire is the destruction of Israel. Period. No need to be coy, Roy… And Kerry as well as his liege form part of the lead for the drive.
    I in turn hate the abhorrent, filthy Muslims and the renegades Jews and unJews that love to be near that disgusting pack of murderous beasts.
    Of course there are also the scions of the capos and Judenrat still in high places. They go into the same bucket and label with the Muslims.
    Not some, all of them are mortal enemies. And as such they must be dealt with.

  3. @ NormanF: You are not wrong. What I wrote in the JPost was,

    “What is needed first is the Palestinian Arabs to accept the permanence of the Jewish Nation State. This is the real issue behind the 100 year conflict. Until this happens the conflict will continue. Everything else is double talk, bullsh.., and wishful thinking at best. At worst it is trying to impose solutions on Israel that would put in danger its sovereign rights to live in its homeland with security.”.

  4. The problem with the “peace process”

    A misnomer: it is actually a bullying process where a group of bullies collaborate to squeeze land and blood from the Jews.

  5. @ Bear Klein:

    Without an end to Arab anti-Semitism, peace and reconciliation with the Arabs is the equivalent of faith in unicorns or waiting for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Its simply never going to happen. People are looking to do what is plainly impossible and John Kerry has already done enough damage to last several lifetimes.

  6. @ yamit82:

    Its a trap of course. Israel still has to deal with all those hostile Arabs only now from a weaker and less strategically advantageous position. Most Israeli Jews understand very well that is suicidal. But the world doesn’t care and it insists Israel endanger itself so it can feel good in its post-colonial smugness.

  7. @ NormanF: The main reason for the conflict is that the Arabs (Pals) do NOT recognize the permanence of a Jewish nation State no matter the size. This has always been the issue. Herb is well aware of this but he is pointing out why all the others ways of getting to peace are basically bullshit in huge overwhelming truck loads.

  8. Topaz Said:

    The reason some of these discourses are so long is that there is a need for lots of words to make the reasons fit what is inherently WRONG.

    “And if you disregard My laws… you will run when no one pursues you.” – Leviticus 26:15-17

    The peace process and 2 state solution is like the Holocaust
    where Mases of Jews and Gentiles walked to their deaths because imitation was their only behavioral benchmark.

    Jews are considered enemies of peace because Arabs are unflinching. When the Arabs refuse to yield and Jews yield consistently, foreigners take Jewish procrastination in yielding as malicious. The enemy of peace is someone who can yield but does not. Arabs cannot be expected to yield, thus the Jews became an obstacle to peace.

    What the EU and America calls territorial compromise is that we Jews are supposed to compromise on our holiest places: Hebron and the Temple Mount, and the core lands, Judea and Samaria. In return, the Arabs benevolently grant us the right to exist within our Auschwitz borders, besieged by Arabs from outside and swarmed by Arabs from within. That looks more like a capitulation than a compromise.

    Stupid Jews accept the demands of the Arabs for a state free of Jews; where not a single Jew remains in his home. Jews get an indefensible state where Arabs constitute a third of the population; not a single Arab is relocated to his own state. Very clever those Jews! (NOT)

  9. The reason some of these discourses are so long is that there is a need for lots of words to make the reasons fit what is inherently WRONG.

    The only “process” is an ISRAEL IN PIECES” process. There are already TWO Arab Judenrein Palestinian states on Israeli soil, given away, Jordan and Gaza, using up more then 80% of Arab Palestinians. And in each there is only tyranny.

    The SOLUTION is to embrace Israel as a Jewish land, to be claimed and protected. Stop all the other nonsense. (When Arabs riot on the Temple Mount, it is the JEWS who are forcibly removed by their own soldiers, on the direction of their own leaders. It is a sickness)

  10. Realistic approach, Mr. K. Declare an END to the phony “peace” process. The two sides OBVIOUSLY can not and never could agree on the definition of “peace”. When Israel signed the peace with Egypt at Camp David; Begin only agreed to try to establish a system of autonomy for “the residents of Judea, Samaria and The Gaza District”.
    Oslo was a huge error and it failed. We can argue all day if Rabin was a drunk manipulated by Peres, but at this stage who cares. Peres apparently learned next to nothing and will remain in denial for all time.
    Peace with Abbas is an illusion. If Israel were stupid enough to allow for the creation of ‘palestine”, within 6 months Abbas would be out and Hamas or ISIS would be in, THAT IS FOR SURE. even labor understands that. If labor got voted in, g-d forbid, it would be stuck in the same place as Netanyahu. Herb, here is your realiastic approach. From now on, journalists should follow the ball, Iran and it’s quest for regional hedgemony via acquisition of nuclear weapons. Don’t waste any more time and effort with DEAD OSLO. Get a life.

  11. Herb Keinon is an idiot.

    The reason peace is impossible is because the Arabs reject the existence of a Jewish State in Israel, period.

    As long as they do – all the talk of restarting the “peace process” will remain a pipe dream. Arab hate of the Jews will be present for generations to come.

    No dialogue is possible with those who see the murder of Jewish children as a laudable national goal. Keinon is addressing the process while every one involved is forgetting the substance.

    There is no address for Israel to make peace with – today or in the foreseeable future.