Apr 10th 2014

How Israel Derailed the Peace Talks

by Juan Cole

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Commentwebsite.

Right wing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday blamed the Palestinians for the collapse of peace negotiations that began last August under the auspices of Secretary of State John Kerry. In fact, the Palestinians took no Israeli land whatsoever since August, whereas the Israelis doubled their pace of building squatter settlements on Palestinian territory, territory over which they said they were negotiating! It is like discussing with someone sharing a piece of pie and then looking down and seeing that the other person had snarfed up half of it already.

Here are the top ten things Israel did to cause the negotiations to falter:

1. Even as it was agreeing to restart the talks with Palestine in August, 2013, the Israeli government signaled its lack of seriousness. I wrote then,

“On the eve of resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, the far right Israeli nationalist government of Binyamin Netanyahu attempted to torpedo them with a series of provocative announcements. It announced that it would steal 100 acres of land from Palestinian families and build 240 housing units on it. The same government announced that it will grant 90 Israeli colonies on the Palestinian West Bank a special status bringing them “government grants, infrastructure investment, tax breaks and other benefits.” The colonies receiving these perks included several that had been considered illegal even by the expansionist Netanyahu government until recently.”



2. On August 11, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel announced his intentions to to publish tenders for 1,187 new Israeli homes in the Palestinian West Bank. Minister Ariel said at the time, “We will continue to build, so it is clear this is just the start. This tune can’t be stopped.” Now that would be reassuring to the Palestinian side, wouldn’t it?

3. In November, Israel announced plans to build 20,000 Israeli squatter settlements on Palestinian territory.

4. Israel doubled its pace of building illegal squatter settlements on the West Bank in 2013 over 2012– 2,534 new housing units versus 1,133 in 2012. President Obama remarked of this vast land theft, “we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time — if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited…”

5. In early January 2014, Netanyahu abruptly began demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” as part of any peace deal. I suspect that this demand was a stealth way of getting prior implicit agreement by the Palestine government to Avigdor Lieberman’s plan to strip over a million Palestinian-Israelis of their Israeli citizenship and render them stateless. In any case, it is a weird demand to make of another country. I pointed out that it is as though the US began demanding that other countries recognize it as a “white state” or a “Christian state” (given the non-religious character of the current Israeli government on the whole, likely “white state” is the appropriate analogy.) The Palestinians pointed out that they had recognized Israel within 1949 borders in the Oslo Peace Accords, in return for Israel returning to them 100% of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel got that enormous concession for free, since it reneged on virtually all the obligations it undertook in the Oslo accords and did not in fact withdraw from any of the West Bank at all.

6. In January 2014, the Netanyahu government released tenders for “the construction of 600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem, which lies over the Green Line [in Palestinian territory], and a further 801 units in settlement blocs in the West Bank [in Palestinian territory].”

7. On January 14, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon attacked Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to secure a negotiated peace, accusing him of having a “messianic obsession”. He said that the American plan for security arrangements was not worth the paper it was printed on and added, “Secretary of State John Kerry — who arrived here determined, and who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.” When a senior member of the cabinet in the government of one of the two parties to a negotiation admits such complete disdain for the negotiator, it isn’t a positive sign. Yaalon concluded, “The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be.” By “let us be,” Yaalon meant “let us go on swallowing up Palestinian territory and kicking Palestinians out of their homes.”

8. In early February, 2014, Netanyahu government members slammed Kerry as an anti-Semitic bigot, slammed Netanyahu for allegedly falling under his influence, and one member of the cabinet actually led a 2000-strong prayer protest with rabbis pleading with Yahweh to remove Mr. Kerry’s Rasputin-like hold over the Israeli prime minister. I wrote at the time,

“Economy Minister Naftali Bennett . . . slammed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as being under Kerry’s influence, when Netanyahu was said to be considering leaving Israeli squatters on Palestinian land under the authority of the Palestine government in a peace deal leading to Israel relinquishing its current annexation project. Naftali Bennett is from the small religious Jewish Home Party that is in coalition with the largely secular Netanyahu government. Jewish Home is dead set against returning to pre-1967 borders or allowing the emergence of a Palestinian state, and has been threatening to withdraw from the government if Netanyahu signs a Kerry-brokered peace treaty with the Palestinians. Now Israeli parliament member Motti Yogev, also from the Jewish Home Party, has attacked Kerry, this time as bigotted against Jews. He said, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is acting under Kerry’s obsessive pressure, which may have anti-Semitic undertones . . . Kerry is not here to reach a compromise. He wants to decrease the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel and create a Palestinian state.” Yogev himself lives in an Israeli squatter settlement on Palestinian territory. Housing Minister Uriel Ariel of the same party led a protest of some 2000 on Thursday, with rabbis praying that Netanyahu will stand firm against Kerry.”

From a Palestinian point of view, the Americans more or less channeled Israeli proposals, so hearing the Israelis denounce their own talking points as anti-Semitic wouldn’t exactly inspire Palestinian confidence.

9. On March 20, 2014, far right wing Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel approved 839 new housing units in Ariel on Occupied Palestinian territory; in addtion, “Some 31 housing units will be built in Almog, in the northern Dead Sea. Additional 350 housing units are planned to be built in Rahel, north of Ramallah.” Almog and Rahel are in the Palestinian West Bank. On March 20, 2014, as well, “the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee just approved the construction of 184 new housing units beyond the Green Line”. . . i.e. on Palestinian territory, at a time Israel was supposedly negotiating to accept a state on Palestinian territory.

10. Israel in late March abruptly reneged on its agreement to release about 100 Palestinian prisoners, put in jail before 1993, whom it had earlier agreed to release as part of the Oslo Peace Accords, but whom it had not in fact let go. The Israelis released 3/4s of the ones it had agreed to but refused to let the last 25 or so go. It was this piece of bad faith (along with all the others above) that impelled Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas to sign the Geneva Convention of 1949 and other international instruments, to which Israel objects (why?).



Juan Cole runs a site Informed Comment.

Juan Cole runs a site Informed Comment.


     

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Aug 10th 2022
EXTRACT: "Central banks are thus locked in a “debt trap”: any attempt to normalize monetary policy will cause debt-servicing burdens to spike, leading to massive insolvencies, cascading financial crises, and fallout in the real economy. ---- With governments unable to reduce high debts and deficits by spending less or raising revenues, those that can borrow in their own currency will increasingly resort to the “inflation tax”: relying on unexpected price growth to wipe out long-term nominal liabilities at fixed rates."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... the likelihood is that Biden, who spent his life as a senator, played a central behind-the-scenes role in turning Manchin around and keeping the Democratic Party Senators together on this pared-down version of Build Back Better. Biden’s legislative accomplishments, not to mention his administrative ones, will likely end up being very impressive for the first two years of his presidency. ------ In matters of climate, every ton of CO2 you don’t put into the atmosphere is a decrease in how hard life will be for our grandchildren. They will have reason to be grateful to President Biden and the Democratic Party if this bill becomes law."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Right-wing media outlets including Fox News, One America News (OAN), Newsmax, and talk radio are grossly abusing the right to free speech and are causing profound, if not irreparable damage to our country at home and abroad. They have been engaged in these deliberate practices of spreading poisonous misinformation all in the name of free speech." ---- "A team at MIT, analyzing propaganda techniques in the news, underscores the use of logical fallacies – such as strawmen (the misrepresentation of the other’s position), red herrings (the provision of irrelevancies), false dichotomies (offering two alternatives as the only possibilities), and whataboutism (a diversionary tactic to avoid directly addressing an issue). ---- Whataboutism is worth considering more closely because it is becoming ubiquitous among Republicans – perhaps this is not surprising given that it is certainly Trump’s “favorite dodge.” It is one of the fundamental rules by which he operates: when you are criticized, say that someone else is worse. In an interview with Trump, Bill O’Reilly states the obvious fact that “Putin is a killer,” and who can forget Trump’s response: “There are a lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” That is classic whataboutism. And it is also of course all over Fox News’ most popular line-up."
Jul 24th 2022
EXTRACTS: "For three hours, against the unequivocal advice of his counsel, friends, and family, Trump purposefully and steadfastly declined to give the mob he had summoned any signal to disperse, to exit the building peacefully, or to simply cease threatening the life of his vice president or other members of Congress." ------ "Trump is corrupt to the core, a traitor who deserves nothing but contempt and to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he remains a menace to this country and an existential threat to our democratic institutions."
Jul 21st 2022
EXTRACT: "For some countries, diasporas also are not new. Just ask the Russians. For three-quarters of a century, Stalin’s NKVD and its successor, the KGB, kept close tabs on expatriate Russians, constantly worrying about the threat they might pose. And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security service, the FSB, is continuing the tradition. According to recent FSB estimates, almost four million Russians left the country in the first three months of this year. Obviously, FSB statistics are hard to verify. But the sheer magnitude of this year’s departures is striking."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: "We need leaders who will be honest about our problems in the short, medium, and long term. We are becoming poorer than our neighbors, with our per capita growth and productivity lagging behind theirs. We confront surging energy prices, soaring inflation, and public-sector strikes. Our fiscal deficit is uncomfortably high. Our influence is diminished. Far from recognizing these challenges, let alone proposing sensible solutions, the candidates to succeed Johnson are trying to win votes with reckless proposals like ever-larger tax cuts." ----- "There is one exception. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak refuses to abandon the notion that expenditure should bear some relationship to revenue. "
Jul 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Looking ahead, five factors could make today’s energy crisis even worse. First, Putin has opened a second front in the conflict by cutting back on the contracted volumes of natural gas that Russia supplies to Europe. The goal is to prevent Europeans from storing enough supplies for next winter, and to drive prices higher, creating economic hardship and political discord. In his speech in June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin made his reasoning clear: “Social and economic problems worsening in Europe” will “split their societies” and “inevitably lead to populism … and a change of the elites in the short term.” ...... As it is, Germany is now anticipating the need for gas rationing, and its minister for economic affairs, Robert Habeck, warns of a “Lehman-style contagion” (referring to the 2008 financial crisis) if Europe cannot manage today’s energy-induced economic disruptions."
Jul 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "Fortunately, I am not alone in claiming that the survival of democracy in the US is gravely endangered. The American public has been aroused by the decision overturning Roe. But people need to recognize that decision for what it is: part of a carefully laid plan to turn the US into a repressive regime. We must do everything we can to prevent that. This fight ought to include many people who voted for Trump in the past."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit described this succinctly in his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. In “politics as economics,” material interests are “subject to bargaining, everything is negotiable, whereas in the religious picture, centered on the idea of the holy, the holy is non-negotiable.” This, then, is why politics in the US is now in such a perilous state. More and more, the secular left and the religious right are engaged in a culture war, revolving around sexuality, gender, and race, where politics is no longer negotiable. When that happens, institutions start breaking down, and the stage is set for charismatic demagogues and the politics of violence."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "...EU enlargement is essentially a political decision by member states, based on a multitude of considerations that sometimes include dramatic events. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is such a turning point."
Jun 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Most market analysts seem to think that central banks will remain hawkish, but I am not so sure. I have argued that they will eventually wimp out and accept higher inflation – followed by stagflation – once a hard landing becomes imminent, because they will be worried about the damage of a recession and a debt trap, owing to an excessive build-up of private and public liabilities after years of low interest rates." ----- "There is ample reason to believe that the next recession will be marked by a severe stagflationary debt crisis. As a share of global GDP, private and public debt levels are much higher today than in the past, having risen from 200% in 1999 to 350% today (with a particularly sharp increase since the start of the pandemic). Under these conditions, rapid normalization of monetary policy and rising interest rates will drive highly leveraged zombie households, companies, financial institutions, and governments into bankruptcy and default."
Jun 28th 2022
EXTRACT: "It is tempting to conclude that today’s central bankers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Maybe if they sit tight, they will ride out the storm. Then-Fed Chair Paul Volcker was Public Enemy Number One in the United States in the early 1980s, when he squeezed post-oil-shock inflation out of the system with double-digit interest rates. But in his later years he was revered, and became a national treasure, called on to advise successive presidents in any financial emergency. ----- But central bankers would be wise not to assume that their reputations will automatically recover, and that the status quo ante will be restored. We live in a more disputatious age than the 1980s. Public institutions are more regularly challenged and held to account by far less reverential legislators." ----- "Moreover, former central bankers have joined the chorus of critics. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, breaking the unwritten rule not to reproach one’s successors, has said that today’s Fed made “a mistake” by responding slowly to inflation. And Bailey’s immediate predecessors, Mervyn King and Mark Carney, have weighed in, too, with challenges to the BOE’s policy. The fabric of the central banking fraternity is fraying."
Jun 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "Public opinion in Belarus remains firmly against involvement into the war with Ukraine. Moreover, according to a Chatham House survey, 40% of Belarusians do not support Russia’s war, compared to 32% who do, while around half of those questioned see predominately negative consequences of the war for Belarus (53%) and for themselves (48%). The Belarusian military and security services are also aware of the determined and skilful resistance that Ukrainian forces have put up against Russia and the risks that they would therefore be running if they entered the war against Ukraine. This, in turn, means that the risk to Lukashenko himself remains that he might lose his grip on power, a grip which depends heavily on the loyalty of his armed forces." ---- "Ultimately, Belarus may not be on the brink of being plunged into war quite yet, but its options to avoid such a disaster are narrowing."
Jun 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russification (the policy of enforcing Russian culture on populations) appears to be being reinforced by ethnic cleansing. Last month the Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights, Liudmyla Denisova, informed the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, that 1.3 million Ukrainians, including 223,000 children, had been forcibly deported to Russia."
Jun 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "If Trump had his way, then Vice-President Pence would have also broken his oath to the constitution and derailed the certification of electoral votes. Our continued existence as a Republic might very well have hung on Pence’s actions that day. The mob’s response was to call for Pence to be hanged, and a noose and scaffold was erected apparently for that very purpose. What was Trump’s reaction when he was told that the mob was calling for Pence’s summary execution? His words were: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.” Mike Pence “deserves” it."
Jun 10th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Speaking to journalist Sophie Raworth on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show recently, former war crimes prosecutor Sir Howard Morrison, now an advisor to the Ukraine government, highlighted the dangers posed by the negative – often insulting and dehumanising – statements made by some Russian politicians and media personalities about Ukraine and its people." ---- "The conditions and attitudes described by Morrison have existed for centuries: Russians have viewed Ukrainians as inferior since before the Soviet era." ----- "And, as Morrison said, stereotyping and denigrating a people as inferior or lacking agency makes atrocities and looting more likely to happen, as we are seeing in Ukraine."
Jun 9th 2022
EXTRACT: "Unless Russia realises that the west is willing and able to push back, a new, stable security order in Europe will not be possible. Concessions to Russia, by Ukraine or the EU and Nato, are not the way to achieve this. That this has been realised beyond Ukraine’s most ardent supporters in the Baltic states, Poland, the UK and the US is clear from German support for strengthening Nato’s northern flank and a general increase in Nato members’ defence spending."
Jun 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "Highly civilized people can turn into barbarians when demagogues and dictators exploit their fears and trigger their most atavistic instincts. Rape, torture, and massacres often happen when soldiers invade foreign countries. Commanding officers sometimes actively encourage such behavior to terrorize an enemy into submission. And sometimes it occurs when the officer corps loses control and discipline breaks down. Japanese and Germans know this, as do Serbs, Koreans, Americans, Russians, and many others."
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Like Metternich, Kissinger commits the fatal error of believing that a few wise policymakers can impose their will on the world. Worse, he believes they can halt domestically generated change and the power of nationalism. Many years ago, this is what Senator William Fulbright termed the “arrogance of power.” This approach failed in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It is also doomed to fail in Russia and Ukraine." ------ "Not surprisingly, Kissinger misunderstands Russia. He appears to believe that, because Russia has been an “essential part of Europe” for over four centuries, it is therefore fated to remain so for the foreseeable future.The claim is completely at odds with history." ---- "Finally, Kissinger misunderstands the implications of his own analysis for Western relations with Russia. “We are facing,” he said, “a situation now where Russia could alienate itself completely from Europe and seek a permanent alliance elsewhere." ---- "But what’s so bad about Russia’s isolating itself from Europe and becoming a vassal state of China? "
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "According to the latest figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China’s population grew from 1.41212 billion to just 1.41260 billion in 2021 – a record low increase of just 480,000, a mere fraction of the annual growth of eight million or so common a decade ago." ----- "China’s total fertility rate (births per woman) was 2.6 in the late 1980s – well above the 2.1 needed to replace deaths. It has been between 1.6 and 1.7 since 1994, and slipped to 1.3 in 2020 and just 1.15 in 2021."