Challenging Einstein: Kerry’s ‘New’ Diplomacy In The Middle East

So there is talk once again of a “new” US initiative in Israel-Palestine diplomacy. We have got a new secretary of state. John Kerry is shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Hopes are supposed to be rising again. 

Really? We are supposed to cheer the possibility that 21 years of failed US diplomacy might – just might – become 22? There is no indication Israel is any more willing than it ever was to stop violating international law and UN resolutions. There is no evidence that any of the 600,000 or so illegal settlers who are violating international law every morning just by getting out of bed, are at all worried about losing either their illegally built homes or their military protection and privileges guaranteed by the Israeli state. There is no sign the siege of Gaza is being cancelled. And most important, there is no hint that the US is prepared to bring any pressure to bear on Israel to end any of those violations. 

So what is going on? Early leaks are focused on Kerry’s apparent decision to revisit the 2002 Saudi plan known as the Arab Peace Initiative. That could be interesting. The plan, endorsed by the entire membership of the Arab League, promised full normalisation of relations between the Arab states and Israel and an official end to the conflict – but only in return for “full” withdrawal of Israel from the territory it occupied in 1967, meaning all of Gaza, all of the West Bank and all of occupied East Jerusalem. It also required a “just” settlement of the refugee issue on the basis of UN Resolution 194 – which guarantees the right of Palestinian settlers expelled in 1947-48 to return to their homes in what is now Israel. 

But crucially, in those same early leaks, Kerry was reported to have proposed retooling the Arab Initiative to reflect the usual US-Israeli formulation: a-two-state-solution-with-swaps. In Tel Aviv and Washington that means Israel gets to permanently annex the vast city-sized settlement blocs in Occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the existing settlement-controlled land – leaving in place all but perhaps a few thousand of the 600,000 or so settlers. And crucially, Israel would retain permanent control of all of the West Bank’s main water aquifers. 

Arab Peace Initiativenoted recently in the New York Times

“The ‘peace process’ has consisted of indulging Israeli intransigence over Palestine in exchange for foreign-policy goals unrelated to the advancement of peace and Palestinian freedom…. [I]f the objectives of the entire peace process are not ending the occupation, removing the settlements and providing for real Palestinian self-determination, then what is the purpose of pretending to restart it?”  

Real reassessment  font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Her books include
 Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy US Power, on the legacy of the February 15 protests. She was on the steering committee of the United for Peace & Justice coalition helping to build February 15. 

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