Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kerry's threats

At the Security Conference held in Munich, Germany, US Secty of State Kerry gave his speech last Saturday and described the US effort to bring the parties to the Israel-Palestinian conflict together. In his speech he issued what can be considered a threat against the Israeli government. He said that if the talks fail then Israel will be blamed for the failure and that the current status quo cannot be maintained "absolutely to a certainty," and this will lead to an increase in the campaign of delegitimization of Israel, especially in Europe. With such certainty and such threats there seems to be something wrong with Kerry's attitude, not what one would expect from a cool, neutral intermediary or diplomat.

It should be noted that this mimics the Palestinian position, they always threaten that if the negotiations fail, or Israel does not accept what they demand, then Israel will be to blame and there will then be violence against Israel, that will be Israel's fault. Specifically at this time the Palestinians, including Pres Abbas, who has supposedly renounced the use of violence to resolve the conflict, threatens the outbreak of a third intifada, or Palestinian uprising against Israel. Note that Kerry also made such a threat last November in an interview, but then retracted his remarks ("taken out of context" etc.). His previous remarks resulted in Defense Minister Ya'alon calling his approach to the negotiations "obsessive" and "messianic," but then Ya'alon too was forced to apologize.

Now in response to Kerry's latest remarks several Israeli Ministers expressed their outrage. Economy MInister Naftali Bennett Head of the Bayit Yehudi Party said that Kerry should be supporting Israel, not issuing threats against it, and he said the Jewish people will not give in to threats. PM Netanyahu called the implied threat "irrelevant." Of course, then Kerry said he was surprised at the reaction his remarks caused, and the State Department spokesman asked for people not to "misinterpret" or "exaggerate" Kerry's remarks. The leader of the Labor opposition Haim Herzog and the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinians, both said they thought Kerry's remarks were reasonable. You can see what side they are on.

When the US has little or not leverage within the Arab world and with Iran, the US Administration turns on Israel in order to score a foreign policy success. It has happened many times, with Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama. Bullying Israel in order to get it to accept their dictates (or the Palestinain position) is an established part of US Middle Eastern policy. However, it has not worked in the past and it will not work now. It seems easy because Israel is so dependent on the US, but the really intractible party is the Palestinians. In an even-handed gesture Kerry threatened Pres Abbas with the same fate as Yasir Arafat if he did not accept Washington's proposals for peace. Whatever he meant by that, Abbas interpreted it as a death threat and threatened to taek Kerry to the Intl. Criminal Court. Kerry needs to learn a few lessons in real diplomacy.


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