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November 8, 2013 1:52 pm

Kerry in Wonderland

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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John Kerry and Shimon Peres, November 6th, 2013. Photo: GPO.

While President Obama was busy retracting promises and apologizing for his health care debacle, Secretary of State Kerry was frantically commuting between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman in a desperate effort to salvage unraveling Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. But his inflated fantasies and ominous predictions only exacerbated the problem.

The crux of Kerry’s unhappiness was Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel would, as had been an agreed condition for negotiation, continue  settlement expansion in return for its release of more than one hundred Palestinian murderers from prison. This was the pact with the devil that permitted the resumption of negotiations, now in their fourth month of mutual recrimination that is increasingly unlikely to produce the peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that Kerry so evidently wants to claim as his crowning achievement. Predictably, President Abbas backtracked and immediately threatened that unless Israel halted construction in Jerusalem and nearby settlements the peace negotiations would terminate “without results” and “the situation is likely to explode.” In translation, Israel’s reward for abiding by their shared understanding would be another intifada.

The Secretary of State  swallowed the Palestinian hook. In back-to-back statements on successive days, he warned of “a third intifada” and “the potential of chaos” if Israel did not back down from its understanding with the Palestinian Authority and halt settlement construction. Kerry was blunt: “the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider them . . . to be illegitimate.”

If Kerry would lower the volume, and devote a few minutes of commuting time to scrutiny of relevant provisions of international agreements, he just might be edified. The establishment “in Palestine” of “a national home for the Jewish people,” was first enunciated in the Balfour Declaration (1917). It was explicitly reaffirmed in the San Remo Resolution of the League of Nations (1920) and the Joint Congressional Resolution of 1922. The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922) recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and . . . the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

Where was “Palestine”? According to Article 25 of the Mandate, it comprised the land east and west of the Jordan River. But “Palestine” could be redefined as the land west of the Jordan if Great Britain, the Mandatory authority, so decided. It did, providing the Hashemite prince Abdullah with his own kingdom (now Jordan). In truncated Palestine between the Jordan River and Mediterranean, according to Article 6 of the Mandate, Jews enjoyed the right of “close settlement.” This means settlement in Kiryat Arba and Ariel, no less than Tel Aviv and Afula.

That right has never been rescinded. Indeed, UN Security Council Resolution 242, following the Six-Day War, called only for the withdrawal of “Israeli armed forces” (there were as yet no civilian settlements) “from territories,” not from the territories, or all the territories, which Arab aggression had restored to Israel. That was not casual language; it resulted from months of intense diplomatic negotiation.

Kerry could do far more to bolster, rather than impede, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations if he were to abide by these international legal principles that have been developed during the past century. Instead, in a joint interview on Israeli and Palestinian television last Thursday, he delivered what Raphael Ahren described in The Times of Israel as “a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu.” The Secretary warned: “If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel.”

Targeting the Jewish state alone, he continued: “If we do not resolve the question of settlements, and the question of who lives where and how and what rights they have; if we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank . . . you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”

That, however, would be the far likelier result if Israel were to embrace the Kerry plan, withdraw its soldiers, abandon settlements with their 350,000 residents, and retreat to pre-1967 borders. With “Palestine” accessible to Hamas fighters and weapons that are now confined to Gaza, no Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, Syria funneling weapons from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iranian nuclear development that the Obama administration now seems quite willing to tolerate, Israel could hardly confront a more menacing prospect.

But John Kerry might receive the Nobel Prize that he so desperately craves.

Jerold S. Auerbach is author of the forthcoming Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy

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  • Steven

    Who told Kerry there have been only two infitada? There has always been intifada against Israel since 1948–it has been ongoing. The 1948, 1967 1nd 1982 wars were the major infantida but the suicide bombings and other hostile acts against Israel are all forms of intifada.

    The truth, let it be boldly declared, is that Israel draws its strength and vitality from Islamic hostility. The day such such hostility stops Israel will collapse. So, infatida should be good news for Israel, not bad.

  • EG

    End-stage rage from JHoward. Although a good hatred can probably keep you going for another 10-15 years, kind of how the Ayatollahs live so damn long…unfortunately, of course.

    • JHoward

      Nice one, EG. “End stage rage.” I like it. And there’s nothing that so concentrates the mind than thinking about time remaining!

  • Daniel

    The author might want to grasp the distinction between legality and legitimacy, particularly as he is writing a forthcoming book on “Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy.”

    Kerry didn’t say the settlements are illegal; he said they are illegitimate. You can rest assured that this was intentional.

    For the author to delve into a discussion of international treaties and rights here is thus misplaced; the legality of settlements is not at issue.

    The more relevant discussion is of higher-level political principles. On the basis of Israel’s self-definition as a democratic and Jewish state, rooted in the value of self-determination – it is doubtless the case that the settlements are illegitimate.

    • Nathan

      Actually, Israel could easily cede some 40% of the West Bank and no longer be in control of a single Palestinian life, therefore making it both Jewish and Democratic. So Israel’s self-definition is in no way hampered by settlements. You can call them a bad idea for any number of reasons, but to suggest that Kerry is simply looking out for Israel’s moral health is preposterous.

      • Daniel

        I’m not sure what’s motivating Kerry’s statements on the illegitimacy of the settlements. I think he does actually care about Israel’s moral health.

        But no matter. Back to the main point: the illegitimacy of the settlements.

        There is not a viable Palestinian state to be had on 40% of the West Bank. Successive Israeli prime ministers have stated their intention to pursue a two-state solution. The expansion of settlements, particularly the ones outside the main blocs, is inconsistent with that goal.

  • The Israeli – Palestinian issue will be solved when the entire global world lives in a political and economical stability, and no one is interfering in others intern affairs. Does global stability possible? We wait and see. To day any decision taking will be wrong, because we live in a split minds world that cause to disastrous results, what we believe is right to day is out of a fake realty. The world is playing a dangerous game which did happen before. Not a new issue, but this time is more dangerous than before, and yet nothing will change and the stone of Jerusalem will remain. We can kill bodies but never the soul, the soul get stronger under killing, comes back from the back door. So better make peace knowing that all people are equal, for peace we must compromise on historical facts which is reality. Does Jews have other countries as Christians which did take the moral law from Judaism and called intolerance, intolerance is created under life circumstances, and Judaism was under development on earth grounds which the church came into power. Islam was the culture that broth up Aristotle to focus when Islam was at best. Now a day where science is in front can be used as a negative tool to humanity not depended on how many people lives or how big a country is. One man can destroy many in a few minutes. Best work on true peace among man and start work on global issues which is the most important task for the entire world. The issue of Israel -Palestine has nothing to do with the global word where the real problem IS. The Israel – Palestinian issue is used as a tool for private politician’s games under cover up hiding from the real problem – Globalization, a task for all of as!

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    When, oh when, will this Obama administration speak on behalf of its ally Israel and not condemn and shame its only true ally in the Middle East? President Obama and Secretary Kerry have done more harm to any possible peace process than good. The problem does not lie with Israel’s settling disputed territories or building based on natural growth in demography within its own borders: it lies with the so-called Palestinians’s refusal to recognize a Jewish state in the Middle East. The absolute revisionism manifested in the so-called Palestinian refusal to recognize the history of the Temple Mount is the crux of the issue. Without recognizing both the Biblical Jewish and Christian narrative and mounting archaeological evidence supporting the narrative of the Jewish presence and stake in Jerusalem more than two thousand years before any Muslim presence or even existence in human record, President Obama and Secretary Kerry appear as faltering dolts to the radical Muslim Middle East. Moreover, the US stance on Israel has fostered the radical Islamists’s irrational insistence that a Jewish state in their midst is implausible.

  • JHoward

    As a non-Jew former devout supporter of Israel who is past fed up over the subservience U.S. governments have increasingly displayed in relation to Israel, I plead with Kerry to pack up and come home. I ask you, Sec. Kerry, on what possible rational basis to you say, regarding the phantom “Peace Process,” that you “remain hopeful?” Explain to your Commander-in-Chief the truth of what the American people already know and stop playing us for fools. Shine the light of reality on the Israel/Palestine mess and the Likudnik Netanyahu charade that our billions of dollars are going to support. Recognize the new brazenness with which new settlements are announced with blatantly defiant timing – and hardly a peep from Obama.

    Unfortunately, we are now witness to the relentless force of the heavenly mandate transmitted through the Israel and American Jewish lobbies that have at last gained the ascendency over Obama and his initial, though naive, objective of playing even-handedly in good faith in what was referred to as the “Peace Process.” What a joke.

    Time has revealed both the fraudulent nature of Israel’s declared desire for peace as well as the true agenda underlying that hoax, specifically, the diabolical slow-motion ethnic cleansing of all the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and “Arab” East Jerusalem, clearing the way for the greater glory, the uncompromising fulfillment for the Chosen Ones of the Promised Land of Eretz Yisrael.

    In the name of full disclosure, I am married nearly for 30 yrs to an Israeli who is the light of my life.

    • Gerd Kaluski

      I am continually amazed by naive comments of no nothings that feel it is their prerogative to criticize Israel in its efforts to survive the continuing hostility of the arab countries surrounding it and many countries that attack it because of ancient bigotry. To put my thoughts into context, I am a Holocaust survivor who escaped

      Nazi Germany in March 1939. I lost most of my Polish relatives in death camps. I am aware of the history that led to the establishment of a Home Land for Jews that had no other place to go to live. Unfortunately, many people who choose to spread lies about Jews and Israel do so out of ignorance of what has happened and what is now happening. The facts concerning the prejudice and the Middle East can not be narrated in such a limited column. I will simply say that people who are so ready to form uniformed opinions open their minds to what is actually happening in Israel and the Middle East

      • JHoward

        *** I am continually amazed by naive comments of no nothings that feel it is their prerogative to criticize Israel . . .***
        My right to criticize Israel comes from the simple fact of my U.S. citizenship. That you may have trouble accepting or even understanding this legitimizing fact is not my problem, but rather is yours, just one manifestation of the bubble of delusional denial in which you exist. It is a well documented state of mind, unfortunately very resistant to treatment, which means that you will never be part of the solution, but indeed are very much part of the problem.

        *** . . . people who are so ready to form uniformed opinions open their minds to what is actually happening in Israel and the Middle East.***

        As a man of near 80 years who has travelled often throughout the Mideast for the past 30 yrs, I am hardly “uniformed” (assuming you mean uninformed).
        As for being “so ready” to form my opinion on the Israel/Palestine issue, I’m afraid you don’t know what you’re talking about. For the first 10 yrs of my following Mideast events very closely, I was a devout supporter of Israel. Over the next 20 yrs I became disillusioned, eventually, very reluctantly, I became convinced that it was not the Israelis who had no partner for peace, but was the Palestinians. Sorry to report this to you, but I’m afraid you are on the wrong side of history, the quintessential victim of your own hasbara, that is, hopelessly deluded. Good luck.

        • Bathsheva Gladstone

          ” I’m afraid you are on the wrong side of history, the quintessential victim of your own hasbara” ~JHoward

          One could say we were always on the wrong side of history… Just like a violator and terrorist sympathizer to once again blame the victim..

          JHoward what compels you to breathe, let alone follow and comment on something that doesn’t concern you other than to spout incendiary and negative hooey?

        • bb

          I didnt know Israel is USA colony!

          Maybe you could thanks Israel that blow up the Iraqui Nuclear facilities and allows your borthers in arms to fight Saddam Hussein and the coalition to liberate Kwait.
          Or Maybe you could thanks Israel that save Hussein King of Jordan from Syria! Or the delivery of MIG 21, soviets radars etc. And now saving Saudis,UAE, Bahareins, and Americans from Nuke bomb that Iran is seeking with their balistic program

          Or more recently the hudge contribution from israel, israeli firms and israeli to the USA in TI( like intel , cisco etc, Science , Mathmetics, Phisics etc…

          You citzenship gives you only the right to vote in Obama or Mitt, to pay you taxes and live your life in Usa, with your israeli partner. Since you think is israel fault, go and live in Gaza!

          As you change your mind from the last 20 years is quite the time of Oslo accords.

          Even Rabin, Peres, Barak,Netaniahu, Olmert tryied hard to make some deal, that should be good for palestinans and israelis. The other side, there is no electin in palestine, quite a decade! And you say something about democracy? Human right to christians, women, press freedom you can chose Hamas or PA. No changing vision.

          Maybe your prejudice came long before, the last 20 years….

    • Arthur Cohn

      The USA government has never been subservient to Israel, and often has carried out actions directly counter to Israel’s interest.(Eisenhower-Dulles in 1956/7) The current administration, through lack of understanding, or just plain onerousness is now negotiating a pact with Iran which only a hater of Israel would sign on to. or is the administration, as Kerry denies, so blind and stupid to not realize the pact would be just as dangerous for America as for Israel.

      • JHoward

        Arthur, your opening statement is so preposterously misinformed that the challenge of replying to that and the rest of your comment is utterly beyond the confines of this format. But simply put, true, the U.S. has not always been the tail wagged by the Israeli dog. That’s been quite a while developing, but it is more real than not today. I realize it’s hard to see it from where you sit. Regarding U.S. negotiations with Iran, you seem to be saying that our acting in defiance of Netanyahu’s clumsy oppositiion means, ipso facto, that we lack understanding and are acting in bad faith, e.g. agree with Israel or you’re stupid and evil. What incredible solipsism! Read a little Haaretz from time to time. Good luck.

        • paul harris

          dear Mr Howard
          i am intrigued by someone who hasnt the faintest idea why there is an Arab problem in Israel.
          It goes right back to the colonial British administration after 1917 when perfidious albion reneged on all of their commitments up till 1948.
          Then instigated a british /Transjordanian in vasion of the infant nation.