US Secretary of State John Kerry jumped into the Middle East with both feet and a preconceived plan of attack. The Middle East is a powder keg of issues at varying stages of “approaching disaster or in disaster.” As with any disaster, Middle East issues are complex and fluid. They require a deep understanding of culture; as well as, politics. It is difficult to imagine that anyone could blow in and solve all of the Middle East’s issues on all fronts within such a short period, even if they are a super broker.
Iran has stated that if their deal doesn’t work out, it will be a disaster for the whole region. Egypt is a revolution gone wrong, but not hopeless. The Supreme al-Qaeda leader has told followers in Egypt to stop their “jihad” on Christians and point it directly on the Sisi government.
Syria is a country without a valid leader in a power struggle between thugs and extremists, with innocent victims in the middle. Rather than push Russia to Responsibility to Protect, Russia pushed Kerry to negotiate destroying Chemical Weapons which is now “drastically behind schedule which is Assad’s fault for not cooperating.” Last week Geneva 2 began, which didn’t get much accomplished other than it demonstrated what a totally depraved inhumane regime the Syrian Government is, lead by Assad. The open question is whether Russia has cut the cord and will let him sink in his sins.
This weekend the newspapers in Israel were raging with news about US Secretary of State John Kerry and how the Peace Talks are going.
The Israeli Boycott Scandal
Secretary Kerry has initiated peace talks with the Israelis and Palestinians which have bumped along for months with little to no progress, until this weekend’s crescendo when both Israel and Palestine erupted in “immense displeasure.”
According to Haaretz on February 1st, Secretary Kerry brought up the dreaded subject of “boycotts” at the EU Security Forum. He was very poignant about what he thought the consequences would be if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t brought to an end. Kerry then asked a question, obviously pointed to Israel, “Are we all going to be better with all of that?” Secretary Kerry continued by saying, “For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high … Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community?”
The State Department received harsh criticism from Israeli officials over Secretary Kerry’s statement regarding increased boycotts should peace talks fail. The European Union has already put boycotts in place for products that are made within the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Of course, Israel’s stance on the boycotts is that they are “illegal, unethical and unjustified.” As far as Israel is concerned, it “expects its friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier.” Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said, “The things … Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable.” On February 3rd, two large EU banks from Denmark and Sweden announce they would boycott against Israel due to their Palestinian policies.
On February 2nd, the U.S. State Department responded in kind to Israeli officials’ criticism of John Kerry’s comments. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “Secretary Kerry has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts. Just last year, while briefing Foreign Ministers at an EU conference in Vilnius on his peacemaking efforts, he urged them to refrain from implementing these types of measures.”
Ms. Psaki went on to say that Secretary Kerry, “described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians. His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed.” Psaki went on to say Secretary Kerry has always “expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements.”
From Israel’s perceptive, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing the matters which are most critical national interests.”
The Palestinian Injustice
According to Jerusalem Post, Palestinian President Abbas and US Secretary of State Kerry met last week to discuss Kerry’s “Framework Agreement.” According to JPost’s source, “Kerry’s proposals were received with shock and rejection by Abbas.” Apparently after some discussion, Secretary Kerry took [if true] the diplomatic approach to handling the situation. According to a JPost, US Secretary of State John Kerry told “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he would meet the same fate as his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, if he turned down Washington’s proposals for peace with Israel.”
The Palestinians could see Secretary Kerry’s strong language which included a correlation to Yassar Arafat as a serious threat. While there certainly has to be another explanation, If this is what he said, Mr. Kerry could not have picked a worse use of words or analogy to try to draw a picture. What trust he may have built with the Palestinians has certainly been put in jeopardy.
The source went on to say that “Abbas wants future generations to remember him as a hero who managed to achieve for his people what the largest Arab powers and parties failed to obtain in all their wars with Israel.” The Palestinians have been refugees since 1948. Israel has persistently taken actions to ignite and inflame anger within the Palestinian community.
In order to ensure a good negotiating environment, President Abbas must do everything that he can to make sure the Palestinian people remain calm. Acts of anger or terrorism [Hamas] do not promote a promising response from the Israelis. No matter what the Israelis say to incite anger such as expansion of settlements, or whatever action they take such as tear down homes the Palestinians must take the high road in the interest of the future. Strength comes from those who are on the higher road and hopefully will have the ability to negotiate a fair framework agreement.
The biggest failure point in the proposed framework agreement had to do with the Israeli settlements. According to Jerusalem Post, the agreement proposes that Israeli Settlements will stay in place and will fall under Israeli governing. However, settlers would be given dual citizenship. Palestine will then be given 5% of Israeli land in return. Other points in the proposed agreement can be found in the Jerusalem Post article.