KERRY'S SPEECH ON ISRAEL: WHAT DOES IT SIGNIFY?
"US secretary of state John Kerry delivered a stinging rebuke of the Israeli government on Wednesday, accusing it of making the establishment of a viable Palestinian state nearly impossible through the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. With Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining forces with president-elect Donald Trump to attack the Obama administration, Mr Kerry said that the US allowed a resolution critical of Israel to pass last week at the UN as a last-ditch effort to keep the idea of a “two-state solution” alive. In the most direct and detailed criticism by a US official of Israeli settlement construction, Mr Kerry said that the West Bank was being “broken up into small parcels like a Swiss cheese that can never constitute a real state”. “The United States cannot properly defend Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our eyes,” he said in a speech at the state department in which he also spelt out the US vision for Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side. Mr Kerry’s speech followed the US abstention last week on a UN resolution that condemned Jewish settlements in the occupied territories that it said were “dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-state solution” — a decision that prompted a furious reaction from Mr Netanyahu."Geoff Dyer, "Kerry accuses Israel of jeopardising two-state solution". The Financial Times. 28 December 2016, in www.ft.com.
"Undeterred by a resounding defeat at the United Nations, Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and warned nations against further action, declaring that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.” Just a few days after the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes. The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the Council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. American officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Mr. Obama hands over the presidency to Donald J. Trump. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the American ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern on Monday that Mr. Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month."Peter Baker, "Middle East: A Defiant Israel Vows to Expand Its Settlements". The New York Times. 27 December 2016, in www.nytimes.com. There is nothing egregious unheard of, or even very novel about American Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry's statement about Israel and its settlement policy. Indeed in a rather loud manner, his statement merely follows the inner, unspoken thoughts of many policymakers in official Washington and especially in the State Department lo these many years. The questions that needs to be asked are: what does Kerry's speech signify? And more importantly, even in the (now extremely unlikely) event that the incoming Trump Administration were to follow the path laid out by Kerry Speech (id. est., if one were to follow the logic consequences of what Kerry in fact says), would it make any difference to the realities on the ground in the Near and Middle East? I for one would answer both queries as follows: i) Kerry's speech and the UN vote which unleashed an Israeli diplomatic push against the outgoing American Administration, is the fruit of the fact that Secretary Kerry has been completely stymied in his push for a settlement of he Palestinian problem in the past four years. The Netanyahu government has completely blocked any and all proposals, American and others towards re-starting negotiations between the two sides. With the looming loss of power on the horizon, it is not altogether surprising that Kerry, et. al., have decided to show for once, their public frustration with the current Israeli government. It can be reasonably asked if in retrospect, the Americans should not have taken much, much earlier the line that Kerry is now taking. Not of course with mere words but with 'deeds'. Which of course raises that second query that I mentioned earlier: ii) whether even in the unlikely event that the Trump Administration were to follow the policy of its predecessor, would a policy of diplomatic and economic coercion: cutting off of aid, both economic and military, as well as other in-direct forms of assistance, result in a change of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians? I would argue that at the present time no it would not. Why so? For the simple reason that unlike in the 1970s to 1990s, American military assistance (the USA no longer gives economic assistance to Israel), is not sufficiently large to impact Israel to such an extent as to make the Netanyahu government or any other Israeli right-wing government change its policies. Currently, the Americans give military assistance to Israel in the amount of approximately one-percent of Israeli GDP. Whereas in the earlier period mentioned the figure for total American assistance was closer to five-percent of Israeli GDP. Added to this is the fact that in the past fifteen years, Israel has acquired a considerable high-technology industry which has permitted it to in fact 'stand on its own feet', economically speaking. With a per capita GDP close to the European Union average. Accordingly, it appears that regardless of any policy of diplomatic coercion that the Americans might employ that the Netanyahu government would merely choose to ignore it and press forward with its recent tilt towards allying itself with Moskva and Peking. Something that a Kerry-like policy would merely cause to Israel tilt even further in the authoritarian camp 1. In short, the only way that I for one can imagine that Israel will change its policy towards the Palestinians, is if there is a change-over in who rules Israel. That the Jabotinsky-like 'iron-wall' policy of the current Israeli government, is discarded and a government which is seriously interested in pursuing a policy of peace comes to power 2. When and if that were to occur is anyone's guess. I can only surmise that it will occur when the Jewish population of Israel becomes tire of being a sort of Near Eastern Sparta. That is something which of course may never happen. And in that case, the iron-wall policy will continue for who knows how long? 1. For Netanyahu's recent tilt towards Putin see: David Gardner, "A new balance of Power in the Middle East". The Financial Times. 29 December 2016, in www.ft.com. See also: Damien Sharkov, "Why Is Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Warming to Russia's Vladimir Putin". Newsweek. 7 June 2016, in www.newsweek.com 2. For the concept of the 'Iron Wall' in Israeli and Zionist politics and thought, see: Lenni Brenner, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Javotinsky to Shamir. (1984).