Kerry made what at best can be called an optimistic message to the press regarding the advancement of peace accomplished by his efforts during this trip to the Middle East. He indicated that the talks were fruitful and that the distance between the two parties had been lessened leaving but a narrow difference remaining to be bridged in order for talks to resume. He expressed a general feeling of pleasure over what had transpired and reiterated that he felt that the talks had been fruitful. The real question is what the average person should take from Secretary of State Kerry’s politispeak and what the reality is regarding any near term resumption of the peace talks. The other mentions of this week’s activities were pretty much duplicates of the longstanding positions the major players had long before Secretary Kerry arrived last week. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu still holds that he is willing to return to peace talks at a moment’s notice without preconditions of any sort by either side. He further clarifies this by pointing out that this does not mean that neither side be allowed to expect certain outcomes, just that any point should be agreed upon through the negotiating process and not be forced to grant either side’s wishes before negotiations even begin. Palestinian Authority Chairman and Palestinian President Abbas remains adamant that the Israelis release all prisoners remaining in Israeli prisons who received their sentence before the signing of the Oslo Accords in September of 1993 all of whom are serving multiple life sentences for numerous murders resulting from terrorist strikes, all Israeli construction be frozen within the contested lands including all of Samaria, Judea, Eastern Jerusalem, the Old City and Temple Mount or anywhere else within the lands gained from Jordan during the Six Day War, that Prime Minister Netanyahu deliver a map of the proposed boundaries for the Palestinian State that will result from the negotiation for Abbas to approve, and Israel agree to allow for the Right of Return to within Israel for the five million plus Palestinian Arab refugees living anywhere around the world. So, what exactly was Secretary speaking of when he claimed that there had been progress and the separation between the two sides had been lessened leaving just a small gap between them and reinitializing the peace process negotiations?
What needs to be understood is that the peace process has become more about appearance than it is about reality. Because of this anything can and will be claimed and then verified as reality is of no consequence. Everybody involved, concerned, or oblivious to the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process have realized and accepted that nothing is going to change because the truth is there never was any such thing as a peace process to begin with. The entire Peace Process from the beginning with the Madrid Conference to the Oslo Accords to the Saudi Plan through the Roadmap on to whatever it is currently being named have all been about whether or not Israel would be allowed to exist. From day one the process has been a winner takes all proposition because the Palestinians as the representatives of the entire Arab and Muslim world would only accept the eradication of Israel as a Jewish State and the Israelis refused to surrender their state and live, if permitted life, as Dhimmi second class citizens under an Arab or Muslim governance. Since the distance between the two sides is unable to be bridged, even having them both agreeing to meet with an intermediary from a third party is an accomplishment. Since nobody actually expects the talks to resume in the foreseeable future, Secretary Kerry and everybody else are free to make whatever claims they wish as long as they are indefinite and do not set any actual expectations for real progress. Expect for Kerry to make a number of additional trips to the Middle East and each time report great strides being managed through his diligence, hard work, his honesty with the two parties and the willingness to reach an agreeable peace. Actually, reaching an agreeable peace is the one thing that both Abbas and Netanyahu can agree is their desire; they just are in complete disagreement as to what such a peace would entail.
Then again, Secretary Kerry may have been referring to something completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian situation when he mentioned that progress had been made and the two sides were closer to reaching an agreement. Kerry could very well have been speaking about Jordanian King Hussein and the disparate groups which make up the Jordanian population and their desire for democratizing changes to be made to their governance. Democratization has been a hot button issue in Jordan ever since the start of the turmoil originally named the Arab Spring and oft renamed the Arab Winter. The Jordanian King has made some preliminary alterations and enacted laws both restricting his universal hold on state powers and allowing for a more powers to be relegated to the Parliament and additional oversights to guarantee free and open elections. King Hussein has also relented on his right to appoint a new Prime Minister allowing for that power to be vested in the elected representatives of the people. Full implementation of these new rules have not been as swift as most would like and it may be that Secretary Kerry has made some ground towards these reforms being implemented, though it did sound like he was referring to making strides on the Peace Process between the Palestinians and the Israelis and not the Jordanian King and the Jordanian people.
According to Jordanian news reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently had agreed to implement an informal building freeze, one in which the government prevents any construction but simply never announces the freeze. We call it the building freeze whose name must not be mentioned. Of course President Abbas demands the building freeze be instituted by a formal public announcement made by Netanyahu. This might lead one to think that Abbas is also attempting to force Prime Minister Netanyahu to take a public move that would result in his losing power and the current government coalition breaking thus forcing new Israeli elections. Abbas might be playing for such an end in the hopes of somebody else winning the next election other than Likud or other nationalist parties. One can understand where President Abbas would much prefer to negotiate with Tzipi Livni or Shelly Yachimovich over Netanyahu. Of course judging from the wave of new younger faces primed to take over some of the leadership roles in the upcoming Likud internal Party elections, it would be more likely that new elections would bring into the Prime Minister’s office somebody from Likud like Danny Danon if not somebody from a different party such as Yair Lapid from the Yesh Atid Party or Naftali Bennett from the Jewish Home Party; any of whom would be far more nationalistic and less likely to allow for the formation of the Palestinian state than would be expected from Prime Minister Netanyahu. So Abbas might want to be careful what he wishes for as it may not be as rosy a picture as he expects should he succeed in forcing Prime Minister Netanyahu from office. In the meantime, with Secretary Kerry’s announcement that the peace talks are not about to reconvene this week but that progress has been occurring, we can expect that Secretary Kerry will return to have another round of fruitless talks and give another glorious report about the gains and the ever closer the two sides are drawing making the restart of the peace talks almost, but not quite imminent. I love polispeak where you get to use many, many words having polysyllabic properties but being almost completely devoid of any true or real meaning or consequence.
Beyond the Cusp