Israelis, Palestinians, Can’t Believe Kerry At It Again
‘Can’t this guy take a hint?’
Amman, Jordan (AP) – With US Secretary of State John Kerry on his sixth visit of his term, trying once again to restart a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, officials on both sides could not suppress their disbelief at the secretary’s apparent cluelessness over the intractability of the generations-old conflict.
Kerry landed in the Jordanian capital yesterday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to attempt to persuade him to return to the negotiating table. Abbas has previously declared he will not negotiate unless the parties agree at the outset that the 1967 lines form the basis of those discussions. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel insists that negotiations take place with no preconditions. Neither side has budged in years despite multiple sustained efforts by outside parties to bridge the gaps, prompting observers on either side of the Green Line to question Kerry’s grip on reality.
“I think each side has made it abundantly clear that they are not interested in really negotiating,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “The fact is, once this issue of the starting point is settled, that pretty much dictates the entire outcome – so what’s the point?” he explained. Erekat wondered what Kerry thinks he can accomplish when neither party finds any of its options palatable, making inaction the most likely and least wasteful course.
“He seems to think we actually feel comfortable about reaching some final-status agreements,” Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, said of Kerry. “Hasn’t he realized that any likely such agreement would separate Jews from the places to which they have the most intense historical attachment? Why would we ever agree to that? Can’t this guy take a hint?” He added that while continued discriminatory rule over millions of Palestinians is hardly ideal, it is preferable to sacrificing the very places that Jewish lore yearns for, having lacked consistent access to, or control of, those places for millennia, and the arrogance with which Kerry – or any other would-be mediator – writes off thousands of years of longing makes his judgment suspect.
Neither do the Palestinians find their choices acceptable. “If Abu Mazen wants maximum international legitimacy he needs to continue avoiding the violence he formally forswore years ago,” said Nicholas Martin of the Near East Policy Center, using the nickname by which Abbas is popularly known. “But that leaves him with precious little negotiating leverage, and anything he gives up will make him ripe for charges of betrayal from more radical quarters such as Hamas,” referring to the Islamic militant organization that controls the Gaza Strip. Given those options, says Martin, continued avoidance of negotiation is the only real strategy that Abbas finds useful, rendering Kerry’s continued pursuit of those negotiations an indicator of his questionable mental acuity.
“Time can only work against us,” Secretary Kerry told reporters before his meeting, seemingly oblivious to the pointlessness of the endeavor, given the instability in Egypt and Syria, which is also spilling over into Lebanon, and the disunity among the Palestinians themselves. He added that cliches such as, “Time can only work against us” are just one of the powerful inducements he can bring to bear in drawing the sides back to the negotiating table.
“You never know what tomorrow may bring,” he added.