United States Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Jordan for meetings with Arab League representatives and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas aiming for a restart of the Peace Process. Initial reports depicted a scene where Secretary Kerry was making sufficiently good progress working with both groups that he sent a feeler challenging Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to give serious consideration for the Arab Peace Plan (aka the Saudi Initiative). Secretary Kerry said Allen is “working with our team and with the Defense Department and with the Israeli forces” and then plans to meet Palestinian Authority offices in the West Bank “to make evaluations on a professional military basis about the nature of threats.” A Palestinian Authority official, who requested anonymity, told AFP that things were moving and Kerry is “determined” to announce a resumption of talks before leaving by the end of the week. Secretary Kerry also suggested that the Israelis take a “look hard” at the now ten year old Arab Blueprint for Peace. Kerry claimed that the Arab Peace Proposal “promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations — a total of 57 nations — that are standing and waiting for the possibility of making peace with Israel.”
The Saudi Peace Plan was recently rejuvenated when Qatar’s Prime Minister mentioned his nation’s willingness to meet its terms should Israel return to the June 4, 1967 borders. The Saudi Plan was explained to the press as stating “The Arab Peace Initiative, unveiled in 2002 by Saudi Arabia, says that 22 Arab countries will normalize ties with Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.” If only this summation of the Saudi Plan were anywhere near accurate. Truth be told, the Saudi Initiative for Peace does place the condition that Israel return to the 1949 Armistice Lines, also called the Green Line, the 67 borders or most accurately, June 4, 1967 borders, but beyond that the rest of the summary paints a far more rosy picture than the actual wording of the proposal contains. What is promised is should Israel surrender every inch of the lands gained through the Israeli victory in their defensive actions during the Six Day War including much of Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria, all of Gaza (already returned to the Palestinian authority who were promptly kicked out by Hamas during a short but very violent coup), the Sinai Peninsula (already returned to the Egyptians as part of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty), and the Golan Heights and any contested lands to Syria and Lebanon, then the Arabs will give consideration to discussing to recognize Israel and may even go so far as to offer normalized relations. So, Israel gives away the store and then the Arab League and Muslim States promise to discuss voting on establishing normal relations with Israel. There is no promise that they will recognize Israel, let alone establish normal relations. The truth is once Israel has ceded every inch of the contested lands the Arab League and any others who they invite will discuss whether to take into consideration anything referring to Israel and will most likely simply decide to reissue their Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967 which included the “three no’s”; “no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and ‘maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.” Sorry Secretary Kerry but the actual Saudi Peace Initiative is a complete non-starter for Israel, not now, not ever.
Meanwhile, there were a number of fairly amusing as well as interesting developments this morning in the Arab-Israeli Peace front (not Palestinian-Israeli as the Arabs invented the Palestinian in order to present a weak victim which they could claim was being dominated and intimidated by Israel which had proven impossible when the conflict was framed as Israel against the entire Arab World so, viola, the poor, defenseless, victims of Israeli imperialism, the Palestinians who have to resort to throwing stones, and bombs and rockets and Kalashnikov AK-47s, and RPG-9’s, and various size mortars. Well, all-right, they are not quite as defenseless as they are made out to be by the world’s media. Anyways, Secretary Kerry actually thought he was making great strides towards initiating another round of peace talks. Kerry had gotten President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to return to the negotiation table if only he could press Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to accept and implement a building freeze. The first surprise was that Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a limited unofficial and unannounced building freeze, kind of a stealth building freeze. Kerry was probably fairly excited when he reported to Abbas that Netanyahu had agreed to a limited building freeze but such mood was soon dashed. Abbas demanded that Netanyahu announce the building freeze and make it official policy. Mahmoud Abbas likely thought that there was no way that Prime Minister Netanyahu could actually announce a building freeze without his coalition partners bolting from the coalition bringing down the government allowing Abbas to go on a world tour touting how the Israelis would rather force new elections rather than negotiate peace making Israel out to be the evil warmongers, that is his favorite subject even when he has no proof, imagine how it would have been if he brought down the Israeli government over resumption of the Peace Process. Well, imagine the shocked look and egg on President Abbas’s face when Netanyahu announced Israel was willing to enforce a limited building freeze as demanded by Mahmoud Abbas as Israel was serious about resuming the Peace Process.
Well, upon hearing that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had actually announced a partial building freeze as an official policy and his government did not implode, the Palestinian Authority leadership was shocked into immediate action. The Fatah leadership immediately announced, “Fatah wants to make some alterations to Kerry’s plan.” They even gave the reason as, “because the proposed ideas are not encouraging for a return to negotiations.” This was followed by Amin Maqbul, Secretary General of the ruling Fatah movement’s Revolutionary Council who claimed, “The central committee is demanding, for a return to talks… that Kerry announce they should be based on the 1967 lines.” Well, that settled the deal and Secretary Kerry realized immediately that he was not going to be able to restart the Peace Process this week, if ever. It was obvious that there would be no amount of preconditions, good-will offerings, gestures, understandings, or other sacrifices by Israel that would not be met with yet one more demand from Abbas and the Palestinians because the Palestinian leadership is unwilling to return to the negotiation table. Israel is not the impeding party to the resumption of the peace negotiations as Kerry and so many others have claimed, the Palestinians are the ones making the return to the negotiation’s table impossible with their litany of over-the-top demands, preconditions and excuses. What this has many of those who have supported Israel against the false accusations that they were responsible for the lack of progress on the Peace Process is exactly how long will Secretary Kerry and those who worked with him during this eye-opening period of revelations remember the lessons taught today in Amman, Jordan with Mahmoud Abbas and company subverting their every effort to restart negotiations. It will be difficult for them to hold on to these truths once they return to Washington DC and report to President Obama and company and are met with a barrage of discontent challenging their perception that Abbas was refusing to negotiate and Netanyahu was eager to return to talks. That will be met with great resistance as the common perceptions are exactly the opposite and the truth has little bearing on long-held inside-the-Beltway know-it-alls.
Beyond the Cusp