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Kafka and the Mess of Peace Negotiations

Nothing’s changed, nothing looks to change

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks duirng the American Jewish Community Global Forum at the Grand Hyatt Hotel June 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Franz Kafka may have died almost 90 years ago this week, but the legacy of the surreal, nightmarish, absurd, and disorienting narrative is alive and well in the world of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The immediate tragic figure in the mess: John Kerry. The real tragic figure: all of us.

Only four months into his term as Secretary of State, John Kerry has helped make one thing clear: the parties most instrumental in creating a two-state solution–Israeli and Palestinian leaders–don’t seem interested. And those who talk most incessantly about the necessity for peace–politicians, diplomats, and professional blowhards and opiners–are watching as Kerry toils tirelessly, futilely to get something, anything to happen.

In four months, Kerry has made four trips to the region, buoyed by a high-profile presidential visit in March that stirred even some pessimists. Kerry will return next week for his fifth trip, despite the fact that his efforts have not yielded even a scintilla of promise that the parties will return to the negotiating table. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has employed an interesting negotiating strategy by demanding preconditions for the talk (including the release of prisoners) that he knows Israel will reject (and few will blame Israel for rejecting), which he recently coupled with the semi-annual threat that he will dismantle(!) the Palestinian Authority, this time if the talks don’t resume.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA minister for civilian affairs, said that Abbas has informed Kerry that the PA’s functional role would end if current efforts to revive the peace process did not succeed.

Israel, as an occupying force, would then have to assume full responsibility [over the Palestinian population],” Sheikh told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station.

Abbas has even set a deadline for the PA’s suicide: June 20, as in two weeks from tomorrow, the second-longest day of the year. Who remembers that scene from Blazing Saddles where Sheriff Bart escapes mob justice by pretending that he will kill himself?

Meanwhile, John Kerry is trying to sell the viability of the suicidal Palestinian Authority to American Jews because Israelis (particularly Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) don’t find the institution useful. In a speech on Monday to the AJC, Kerry made his not-entirely-uncompelling case.

The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to a policy of nonviolence. They are the only entity out there in that region that has committed themselves to nonviolence. Think of the cost of that. And think of what they have done to try to build institutions, a security arrangement, a democracy, a prime ministership, growth in the Palestinian economy. The fact that last year, up until recently, not one Israeli died from anything that happened from the West Bank until there was a settler killed about a month ago.

For some insights into the spectrum of reaction to the speech, check out Ron Kampeas, who looks at how Kerry is now butting heads with AIPAC, and J.J. Goldberg, who saw the speech as breaking several rules of etiquette, including initiating something of a subterranean grudge match with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Looming ominously in the background, as Sarah Wildman points out, are the cranes of construction and destruction.

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Royq says:

I despaired as soon as I heard John Kerry was involved. His campaign against Bush (I still have the shirt that came complimentary with my contribution) was a masterpiece of ineptitude. Kerry couldn’t capitalize even when he was dealt a good hand. He will achieve nothing, as he has diligently done so throughout his political career. God, I still cringe when I think about his raising the issue of Liz Cheney’s sexuality in one of the televised debates. It was a perfect synthesis of incompetence, rudeness and lack of principle. Have no illusions, the Palestinians and Israelis have taken his measure and will not budge.

Royq says:

Although maybe Kerry can get some good windsurfing in at the beach in Tel Aviv.

ginzy1 says:

“The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to a policy of nonviolence”

That’s BS. The PA’s ostensible commitment to non-violence (to the extent that there is a “commitment”) is purely tactical as Abu Mazen thinks it’s counterproductive, but has never said it’s wrong. Other PA bigwigs (e.g., Jibril Rajoub) periodically hint that they will return to violence if they don’t get what they want. This is the PLO’s style of “negotiating”.

“The fact that last year, up until recently, not one Israeli died from anything that happened from the West Bank until there was a settler killed about a month ago.”

To the extent that is true (and I don’t have all the numbers in front of me to verify) it hasn’t been for lack of trying. What has kept down the violence more than anything is the IDF’s quiet but effective anti-terrorist operations. That has changed of late since the new OC of Central Command is quite a lefty (his wife is active in Machsom Watch — just think, the perfect subject for a Tablet hagiographical paean).

I never thought anyone would make long for Hillary Clinton as Sec’y of State, but Kerry has succeeded. In his short time in office he has proved himself to be a pompous fool and blithering idiot (otherwise he’s perfect). He seems to be unable to learn from history and like Obama he thinks his personality is enough to bring peace to the region.

BTW, there is an interesting post-script here. When the EUniks voted en masse to support the P.A.’s non-member statehood bid at the UN, they (and the USA as well) assured Israel that once they achieved this recognition, they will be wiling to sit down with Israel and negotiate without preconditions. In fact the EUniks insisted that the PA promised them that they would negotiate. So now Netanyahu is asking the EUniks and the USA to deliver on that promise… and guess what? Nothing. And who do the EUniks blame? Not the Pals. That’s not P.C.


Jerusalem / Efrata

PhillipNagle says:

Could we at least have an election for the Palestine Authority? Hamas won the last parlimentary election but they were quickly shut out by Abbas and his clique with the full blessing of the US. Hamas does rule Gaza, a fact which the Israelis at the insistance of the US is supposed to ignore. In the mean time Abbas’s presidential term has long ago expired, a fact which the US also wants everyone to ignore. Until the so called Palestinians can have a representitive government, there should be no peace talks.

    bartmartin says:

    Hamas doesn`t rule Gaza.They murdered their co governors the PLA and threw their bodies out the window.Hamas takes orders from Iran,Gaza is a terrorist entity not a government!

      PhillipNagle says:

      But they did win the last election. To sign a peace agreement with the losers would be beyond stupidity.

      ginzy1 says:

      Actually, in many cases Hamas pushed the PLOers off of the roofs without killing them first. Rumor has it that Hamas was trying to make a live recreation of Galileo’s famous experiments on falling bodies for the benefit of Gaza science classes.


Beatrix17 says:

America made Abbas the Palestinian leader. His only qualification? He wasn’t Arafat. He uses the peace talks to do his real job, which is to be a propagandist. He
tells anyone who will listen that he can’t handle the job of leading the Palestinians, and even begs Israel to agree to the “right of return” to take several million of them off his hands.

The Pals need a leader who wants lead his people—the more the merrier. This is going to shock Americans who put a college professor into office and thought he’d become a President, but the Palestinian accountant and English teacher we support are also going to fail as leaders of Palestine.

Talk to Barghouti. If he’s put aside his assinine terrorism, both Israel and America should support him. Retire Abbas and let Barghouti form a country. There isn’t anyone else.

Larrysturn says:

It would be good to give Obama-Kerry and peace a chance. Every now and again a long shot comes in and we all will benefit from this one if it does. So hold the cynicism and consider the possibilities for a secure Israel with a Palestinian state as its neighbor.


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Kafka and the Mess of Peace Negotiations

Nothing’s changed, nothing looks to change

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