Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kerry's tour

Secty of State John Kerry toured the Middle East again in the wake of Pres. Obama's recent visit in order to take advantage of the coat-tails effect.  But, so far all he has managed to do is worsen the situation.
In Turkey, Kerry visited with FM Davutoglu and in a joint press conference stated that he was impressed by how "sensitive" the Turkish response had been to the apology by PM Netanyahu over the Mavi Marmara affair, when nine Turkish terrorists were killed by IDF commandos.  By saying this Kerry was ignoring the hostile statements by both Turkish PM Erdogan and Davutoglu in which they continued to castigate Israel even though they had received the apology they demanded.  They insisted that the apology gives Turkey the right to be involved as an intermediary between Israel and the Palestinians, they interpreted the apology as meaning that Israel will lift the blockade on Gaza, which was not included in the apology, and they demand m$1 for each victim of the Mavi Marmara shooting before the negotiation has started.  These can hardly be regarded as "sensitive" comments and they are certainly not diplomatic.  Since Pres. Obama "persuaded" PM Netanyahu to issue the apology, it is up to the US to make sure that the Turks do not take the apology but continue as before.  However, given PM Erdogan's strident and continuous criticism of Israel there is not much chance of that happening.
Then Kerry visited Ramallah to meet with PA Pres. Abbas to try to persuade him to reopen negotiations with Israel.  In doing so he took a series of new Israel concessions to Abbas, namely that some Palestinian prisoners will be released and that the tax revenues that Israel collects for the PA will no longer be held up.  But, what Kerry got was a poke in the eye.  Instead of reducing or removing the preconditions that he has set for restarting negotiations with Israel, Abbas increased them.  Now, as well as an Israeli building freeze in the West Bank, and a return to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, Abbas also demands the release of all Palestinian prisoners before any negotiations can take place!  What would be the point in having negotiations if some of the main points would be conceded by one side in advance.  These issues are prime examples of what needs to be discussed and decided between the two sides.  There can be no such preconditions and Abbas knows that, so he is deliberately torpedoing talks before they can start.  His reasons for doing this are evident, first, he is weak and seeks to gain points over his more extreme rival Hamas, second, he is illegal, his term of office ran out at least 3 years ago, and third, he does not want to be the Palestinian leader who negotiates a peace deal with Israel.  So with a hopeless situation, Kerry has naievely wandered into a minefield and is in danger of blowing it all up.
There are two assumptions of the Obama Administration that are questionable: first that economic development of the PA will change Abbas' mind about negotiating with Israel, and second the basic assumption that the Palestinian issue is the core issue determining war and pece in the Middle East.  Looking at Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iran that assumptrion certainly looks out-dated.
Meanwhile a group of American Jewish liberals, including some Rabbis, have issued a sanctimonious letter addressed to PM Netanyahu asking him to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to obtain peace.  They are so clueless that it doesn't bear bothering to take them seriously, were it not for the anti-Israel PR that they generate.  Why don't they take a realistic look at the situation before committing themselves to such a sophomoric, one-sided, self-deluded anti-Israel position?


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