Gwynne Dyer: Even the magnificent John Kerry likely can’t bring a peace deal on Israel and Palestine

Comments8

John Kerry has been U.S. Secretary of State for precisely one year, and he has already 1) rescued President Obama from his ill-considered promise to bomb Syria if it crossed the “red line” and used poison gas; 2) opened serious negotiations with Iran on its alleged attempt to build nuclear weapons; and 3) taken on the job of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Getting Obama off the hook was useful, and may yet lead to the U.S. ending its support for the insurgency in Syria, which at this point would probably be the least bad outcome. Opening negotiations with Iran was long overdue, and makes the nightmare prospect of an American or a joint U.S.-Israeli air attack on Iran less likely. But even King Solomon and Avicenna (Ibn Sina), sitting jointly in judgement on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, could not broker a peace accord there.

Kerry is indefatigable. He has been to Israel/Palestine eleven times in the past year, and spent as much as a hundred hours face to face with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, or their close advisers. Unlike all the previous “brokers”, he has been astoundingly discreet: not a hint of what has been said in private has leaked into the public domain. And yet there is almost no hope of a real peace deal.

If persistence in the face of all the odds were enough, Kerry would be the man who finally made it happen. (Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon recently complained that his approach is “obsessive and messianic.”) But Kerry has no leverage: he has to rely on the desire of the two leaders to make the “peace process” work, and it just isn’t there; not, at least, on any terms that both would find acceptable.

The list of deal-breakers includes almost every topic under discussion: the borders of a Palestinian state, the future of the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, whether Jerusalem can be the joint capital of Israel and Palestine, whether Israel can maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes, and Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognise it as an explicitly Jewish state.

This last demand, which was only raised in the past couple of years, seems deliberately designed to be unacceptable to the Palestinians. Not only are they required to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Israeli state (which they have already done), but also to give their blessing to the ethnic and religious character of that state.

It is not normal in diplomacy for one state to comment upon the internal arrangements of another, let alone to give them its public support. Even the United States, Israel’s closest ally and supporter, does not officially recognise it as a “Jewish state.” The Israeli demand is an attempt to rub the Palestinians’ noses in their defeat, and why would you set out to do that if you really wanted a deal?

The Palestinian insistence on a “right of return,” however rooted in natural justice, is equally self-defeating in practice. Everybody knows that a peace deal must mean compensation for the refugees of 1948 and their descendants, not a general right of return to what is now Israel, for that really would mean the end of the “Jewish state.” But no Palestinian leader has ever dared to say so out loud.

So why, then, has John Kerry embarked on his quixotic mission to make the “peace process” work? It has been effectively dead for at least a dozen years, although it remains unburied because the pretense that it is still alive allows everybody to avoid hard decisions. But Kerry, with his nine-month deadline to achieve a comprehensive “final-status agreement” (which expires in April), is taking it seriously.

His own explanation is lyrical but opaque: “I believe that history is not made by cynics. It is made by realists who are not afraid to dream.” But the business about “making history” – that, perhaps, is sincere. Kerry has had a long and interesting career as a senator, and even took a shot at the presidency, but this is probably his last big job, and he wants to make his mark.

As the reality of what he is up against strikes home, he has scaled back his ambitions a good deal. For some months now he has been talking about a more modest “framework” deal by April that would establish a set of basic principles for further talks. Such deals commit nobody to anything, and are therefore a popular way of pretending to make progress, but he’ll be lucky to get even that.

The French general Pierre Bosquet, watching the suicidal charge of the British Light Brigade in the Crimean War in 1854, said: “It is magnificent, but it is not war. It’s madness.”

Kerry’s foredoomed quest for a final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is magnificent too, in its own peculiar way, but it’s not diplomacy. It’s hubris.

Comments (8) Add New Comment
SPY vs SPY
The comment that John Kerry is "Messianic and Obsessive" are 2 perfect words to describe Zionism.

Israel was created through the use of Military Force and Violence and the only way to get Israel to allow Palestinians to have a country of their own, will be through Economic and Political Force - Economic Boycotts and Political Isolation.

The CIA has a great Saying - Turn the Truth on it's self.

To Netanyahu and Zionists - War means Peace and Peace will lead to War.

An Israeli Solider Shoots a Palestinian - He is just a Soldier doing his job.

A Palestinian throws a rock at a 25 ton Israeli Tank and the Palestinian is a Terrorist.

A Palestinian is shot and killed without just cause - Well Shit Happens!!

An Israeli Settler threatens a Palestinian Woman or Child who protest settlements - The Israeli Army Assault and Imprison them both - even if the child is under 12 years old!!

Pleased read 2 books written by Jewish Authors

One Palestine Complete - by Tom Segev - a history of the creation of Israel

The Generals Son - by Miko Peled

Israel is nothing more than a Jewish Military Colony in a Country called Palestine
31
21
Rating: +10
Coastguarder
Spy - as I understand it, the primary reason Israel was born amidst military force and violence was the invasion of the country by the hostile armies of four (Syria, Transjordan, Iraq and Egypt) bordering states. This occurred essentially immediately upon the declaration of the state of Israel. The newly formed nation was definitely not the aggressor in that instance and was compelled to meet force with force to ensure its very survival.
13
16
Rating: -3
SPY vs SPY
The reason Israel was created was that people of the Jewish Faith had more influence and wealth in Great Britain and the USA after WW2, than the Palestinian People, who had been living in Palestine for the last 1,500 years.

In 1896 Theodor Herzl wrote a book encouraging people of the Jewish Faith to go to Palestine and create a State for themselves.

A people without a Land - for a Land Without People was the catch phrase of the day.

The big lie of course - was never mentioning that there were millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims already living Palestine - who wanted a State of their own.

If Jewish people really wanted to understand and fight Anti-Semitism - Sue the Vatican who for 2,000 years encouraged Racism and Violence against Jews - Because the Jews Killed Christ - Actually the Italians did (Romans in those days).

Then go after all the USA Corporations that aided and financed Hitler, the Nazi Party and organized the Holocaust.
9
8
Rating: +1
JohnWV
Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and will never accept a non apartheid democracy with a Jewish minority. Continuing illegal annexations, settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing have also precluded any negotiated two state solution. The Jewish State must be forced to recognize an armed Palestine with externally enforced autonomy, eviction of all settlers, true contiguity encompassing Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem together, neither pinched nor parceled, and pay crippling punitive reparations. American foreign policy must again serve American interests, not the Jewish state's paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and racist empire.
8
12
Rating: -4
Dennis Ryan
And Canada is no help, thanks to Stephen Harper's fundamentalist pro-Israel bias. The man, and his party, can't see the forest for their ideology; and Canada is infinitely poorer for it.
12
10
Rating: +2
Mike
Spy, Morally, I agree with you 100%. I think you are overlooking one key fact, however. Right or Wrong, Israel exists as a state that is quite capable of maintaining the Occupation and Settlement of Palestine for many decades to come. It has to be dealt with as a legally existing soveriegn state. This is not to say, by any means, that it should continue its privileged relations with the West. The "Peace Process" is really little more than a PR stunt at this point. I think the "Hard questions" Dyer speaks of can be simplified into two options.

A-Should the west try to force Israel into the obvious settlements it needs to make in order to ensure peace?

or

B-Should the west do nothing, and watch as Israel becomes a pariah that eventually even it can not continue to support? Should it stand back and watch Israel author its own destruction?

In going with the peace process, the US is effectively choosing option B. Option B is not only unfair to the Palestinians (many decades and another generation or so of them will pass before they get their state like this), but also to the Israeli's, as ultimately, it will lead to the complete destruction (politically, not physically) of the Israeli state. While you may or may not argue that this is a good thing, the fact is that as Israel's existence becomes more untenable, it will act much much worse. I am talking about an Israel that makes Netanyahu's Israel look modest and restrained by comparison. The peace process can only work if the US puts real pressure on Israel. Threatening to cut their veto off would be a good start.
4
4
Rating: 0
Steve
Do the Palestinians a favour and stop supporting their destructive behavior. The Palestianians lives will
Improve when they begin working on a constructive future living side by side with Israel in peace and collaboration.
9
2
Rating: +7
Coastguarder
One of the things about the entire Palestinian refugee situation which has always bothered me and which rarely gets brought up is the question of why after all of the years since 1948 when the Arabs living in the newly declared state of Israel left (I won't go into whether by force or choice) haven't they been absorbed by any of the bordering Arab states? You would think that in the interests of cultural brotherhood/solidarity or just plain humanity that a few hundred thousand displaced people could have easily been absorbed by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq. Regardless of who was right or wrong initially, the fact that for 70+ years these people have remained in a sort of limbo not only because of Israel's refusal to accept any permanent solution but also because of the refusal of neighbouring Arab nations to accept them in is somewhat perplexing. That is until you realize that it is far better in the eyes of Israel's enemies to have the Palestinians as a constant thorn in the side of Israel than to resolve the issue by allowing the assimilation into other Arab countries. By having the refugee situation ongoing, Israel is constantly made to look the oppressor (sometimes rightfully so) and world opinion on this issue weighs heavily against Israel and colors world opinion on all matters regarding Israel. No one seems to ever mention how politically beneficial it is for the rest of the Arab world to leave the Palestinians just where they are.
7
7
Rating: 0
Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.