THE LATEST ROUND OF NEAR-EAST NEGOTIATIONS: KERRY'S FOLLY?
"Washington’s attempts to shepherd Israelis and Palestinians into a so-called framework deal – yet another road map towards ending their conflict – appear to be running out of road. Almost nine months of intense diplomacy, led by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, may have hit a wall this week. Given the way he and his boss, President Barack Obama, have managed this affair, it is surprising this has not happened sooner.... It is not just that Washington is behaving more like a crooked lawyer than an honest broker, bullying the weaker Palestinian party into keeping talks going while Israel continues to settle illegally occupied territory. The Israeli tail is being allowed to wag the US dog. Mr Netanyahu cannot be losing much sleep over reports that President Obama is returning to the talks to back up Mr Kerry. It is hard to see what difference this can make while the US concentrates on process rather than substance. Far from pushing Israel to roll back the occupation enough to enable Palestinians to build a viable state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital, it looks as though the US is planning to hand Israel almost all the settlement blocs, about three-quarters of East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley.... Why any US official dreamt all this might work is a puzzle. It seeks compromise not between Israel and the Palestinians but between factions of Israel’s irredentist right – which means the end of a two-state solution. Unless the US is prepared to push for a real compromise, and a real state of Palestine, Israel’s future could be bleak. ".David Gardner, "US plays the crooked lawyer in an Israeli-Palestinian drama". The Financial Times. 6 April 2014, in www.ft.com.
"If you follow Clifford's [White House domestic policy advisor] advice [favoring the recognition of the State of Israel] and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you".American Secretary of State George C. Marshall to President Truman, 12 May 1948. The criticisms `a la David Gardner in this week-end's Financial Times, made of American Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry's intensive efforts to 'jump-start' the Near Eastern peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Are of course par for the course. And indeed extremely accurate as far as it goes. By definition, the Americans are and have been for almost the entirety of the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict, a biased party. Or to employ the verbiage of Mr. Gardner a 'crooked lawyer'. The issue of course is that the nature of domestic American politics, in a classical case of Primat der Innenpolitik, does not allow for rationale decision-making as per Near Eastern diplomacy. It never has and it certainly is not going to now. As the interaction between the current American administration and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently shown. In almost every past confrontation (such as they were) between the two sides, it is the American side, under domestic political pressures who inevitably gives way. This state of affairs may be sad, it may be maddening and indeed irrational(and I will be the first to admit that it is all of this and more), but it is a empirical fact. And not only is it an empirical fact, it is a empirical factum, which will be change or to use a demotic expression: 'go away', anytime soon. Id. est., the nature of the American polity will not change greatly in the next two to ten years to see marked changes as to how the United States approaches the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. To ask the very intelligent American Secretary of State to do something which people such giants of American history as General George C. Marshall was unable to do back in 1948, is verily to ask the impossible. However unfortunate it may be, Secretary Kerry can only operate within the political parameters allowed for by the nature of American domestic politics. And, while the apparent American political consensus which backs a 'pro-Israel' policy may indeed be much, much weaker than one may suppose on the surface, the current American administration is not going to be the one that will test this hypothesis to see if it in fact true. This in turn may perhaps be a tragedy, but is also a fact which will not change anytime soon. The tragedy being that by the time that the Americans do become 'straight' as opposed to 'crooked' lawyer, it may be too late to influence positively the facts on the ground in the Near East.