December 29, 2013 - 7:05:05 am
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to return to Israel and the Palestinian territories for peace talks next week. What the region will see this time will be the return of a more confident Kerry after the signing of a temporary nuclear agreement between Iran and the West, in which the US official had played a seminal role.
While the Iran nuclear deal was a coup of sorts, considering the decades-long acrimonious relationship between Washington and Tehran, and giving credence to the age-old mantra that there is nothing impossible in diplomacy, it’s really difficult for people of our region to guess how Kerry would pull off a Palestinian-Israel deal, unless Palestinians choose to sign exactly where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants them to, foregoing almost all of that they had stood for. Such has been the wanton continuation of the aggression and violations of Israeli government that it seems to be working as if there are no peace negotiations going on.
Not only that Israel hasn’t done anything to create an atmosphere conducive for talks, it seems to be working hard to sabotage any possible deal by throwing new hurdles. According to an International New York Times report yesterday, Tel Aviv has catapulted another issue to the fore that may be even more insoluble – a demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Everybody knows that Netanyahu is extending a poison pill for Palestinians to swallow. Because, agreeing to that demand would disenfranchise Israel’s 1.6 million Arab citizens, upend millions of Palestinians’ rights of return to their homeland and several such rights which Palestinians hold dear. Kerry will be visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to broker an agreement on a “two-state solution” in which Israel would exist peacefully alongside a new Palestinian state. Kerry wants the sides to agree to a framework for an interim accord ahead of a deal in April, which would launch another year of talks aimed at a full-blown peace treaty. A framework would demonstrate that progress is being made in talks that began in July.
With Israel refusing to budge on any of its points, and mocking everybody with the announcement of construction of thousands of new settlements in occupied land, and Washington making no sincere and credible efforts to stop Netanyahu’s aggression, President Mahmoud Abbas can only enter the talks expecting crumbs by giving away heads.
Also, Palestinians have never been weaker. A president like Abbas lacks the political and moral muscles to fight for the rights of his people. He lacks even the support of his own people, and therefore runs the risk of getting arm-twisted by Kerry and Netanyahu•