By Richard Irvine
Poor US Secretary of State John Kerry. He tries to defend Israel, even to save Israel; he tries to legitimize its illegal occupation and have the Palestinians accept their dispossession, and in return he is lambasted by Israel’s politicians as “an amplifier” of “anti-Semitic boycotts.”
John Kerry, who has been engaged since the summer in trying to resurrect the long moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is due to present his proposed framework agreement to both sides in the coming week. If reports are to be believed, the framework agreement gives much more to Israel than is either morally or legally justified. Indeed if it corresponds to Thomas Friedman’s New York Times account it amounts to a virtual capitulation to Israeli demands and ‘facts on the ground’.
Israel will retain its illegal settlement blocs, maintain a substantial military presence in the Palestinian Jordan Valley, and have nullified the Palestinian refugees legal right of return. To top it all, the Palestinians will then humiliate themselves by recognizing the worldwide Jewish moral, political and legal right to the land that they, the Palestinians, have been driven from. In return then the Palestinians will be allowed the doubtful panacea of a state with a capital of some sort in part or parts of East Jerusalem. Israel will have to give up nothing that it is either legally or morally entitled to; the Palestinians will have to give up their basic collective right to self-determination and their individual right to return to the land from which they were expelled.
With this deal on offer one would imagine the Israeli government would be positively cock-a-hoop – maybe they are – but if so they playing the negotiations game with a mean poker face. Striving to drum up Israeli support for this deal of the century, John Kerry attempted to alert its political class to the alternatives if they declined it. Speaking on Saturday he had the audacity to remind Israel that the current occupation is not sustainable, that in his words, “[T]oday’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace. Last year, not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank. This year, unfortunately, there’s been an uptick in some violence. But the fact is the status quo will change if there is failure. So everybody has a stake in trying to find the pathway to success.”
Although saying no more than the obvious, Kerry then went on to play Cassandra and predict what would occur if Israel failed to endorse his plan: “You see for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things.” In a week in which Scarlett Johansson put herself definitely on the wrong side of history by choosing to represent the Israeli settlement company Soda Stream over the worldwide humanitarian charity Oxfam, Kerry again was saying no more than should be already obvious.
However, accepting the obvious appears to be a step to far for the Canute-like Israeli political class. Ignoring all that the US has done and continues to do for Israel, Israel’s politicians lined up to declaim Kerry’s remarks.
Breathtakingly, they chose almost as one to interpret his warning of boycott as an endorsement of boycott, a paranoia that surprised the US State Department into issuing a tetchy clarifying statement reiterating US opposition to boycott. Amongst the several ludicrous comments made by Israel’s politicians were Prime Minister Netanyahu’s denunciation of “unethical” boycotts; Economy Minister Bennett’s sulky bottom-lip moan that Kerry should “stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier”; and fantastically Strategic Affairs Minister Steinitz’s hurt little boy whinge that “The things … Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable.”
No clearer evidence is needed of just how spoilt a political child Israel has become. Even though its friend Kerry, if what is reported is true, has effectively bowed to its demands in his framework agreement, when he dares to couple his acquiescence with a modicum of truth, the indulged toddler Israel can only throw a tantrum. Whether Israel will later see sense must be a matter for speculation, but with a political class as out of touch with reality as this I don’t think there is much reason to fear it will. Indeed, perhaps nothing demonstrates Israel’s lack of an understanding of reality better that Minister Steinitz’s final remarks on Kerry – “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing the matters which are most critical to our national interests.”
Perhaps someone should tell Steinitz that it is Israel that wields the gun, and that it is Palestinians that have real as opposed to metaphorical guns not so much to their heads, but daily pushed in their faces. However, with politicians as delusional and as arrogant as Israel’s, I believe I can be confident that despite Kerry’s best efforts, Israel will be unable to ward off the boycott avalanche that is coming, and that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement will be able to achieve the just peace the US led international peace process never sought to deliver.
– Richard Irvine is a co-ordinator of the Palestine Education Initiative. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.