April 12, 2014
In One Word: Poof!
POOR JOHN Kerry. This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble.
In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how
the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the “peace process”. They
broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time
announced the enlargement of more settlements in
“Poof” is the sound of air escaping a balloon. It is a good expression, because the “peace process” was from the very beginning nothing more than a balloon full of hot air. An exercise in make-believe.
JOHN KERRY cannot be blamed. He took the whole thing seriously. He is an earnest
politician, who tried very very hard to make peace between
The trouble is that Kerry had not the slightest idea of what he was getting himself into.
The entire “peace process” revolves around a basic misconception. Some would say: a basic lie.
Namely: that we have here two equal sides of a conflict. A serious conflict. An old conflict. But a conflict that can be solved when reasonable people of the two sides sit down together and thrash it out, guided by a benevolent and impartial referee.
Not one detail of these assumptions was real. The referee was not impartial. The leaders were not sensible. And most importantly: the sides were not equal.
The balance of power between the two sides is not 1:1, not even 1:2 or 1:10. In every material respect – military, diplomatic, economic – it is more like one to a thousand.
There is no equality between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. A jailer and a prisoner cannot negotiate on equal terms. When one side has total command of the other, controls his every move, settles on his land, controls his money flow, arrests people at will, blocks his access to the UN and the International courts, equality is out of the question.
If the two sides to negotiations are so extremely unequal, the situation can
only be remedied by the mediator supporting the weaker side. What is happening
is the very opposite: the American support for
Throughout the “negotiations” the
A PREREQUISITE for successful negotiations is that all sides have at least a basic understanding not only of each other’s interests and demands, but even more of each other's mental world, emotional setup and self-image. Without that, all moves are inexplicable and look irrational.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, one of the most intelligent people I have met in my life,
once told me: “You have in
The same is true for the American experts, only much more so. In
The average American statesman has not the slightest idea of Arab history, world-view, religions, myths or the traumas that shape Arab attitudes, not to mention the Palestinian struggle. He has no patience for this primitive nonsense.
SEEMINGLY, THE American understanding of
Average American politicians and diplomats know a lot about Jews. Many of them
are Jews. Kerry himself seems to be partly Jewish. His peace team includes many
Jews, even Zionists, including the actual manager of the negotiations, Martin
Indyk, who worked in the past for AIPAC. His very name is Yiddish (and means a
The assumption is that Israelis are not very different from American Jews. But
that is entirely false.
Martin Indyk may feel an affinity with Tzipi Livni, the daughter of an Irgun
fighter (or “terrorist” in British parlance), but that is an illusion. The myths
and traumas that shaped Tzipi are very different from those that shaped Martin,
who was educated in
If Barack Obama and Kerry knew more, they would have realized from the beginning
that the present Israeli political setup makes any Israeli evacuation of the
settlements, withdrawal from the West Bank and compromise about
ALL THIS is true for the Palestinian side, too.
Palestinians are convinced that they understand
The latest one was the belief that
Israelis do not understand the deep emotions evoked by the non-release of prisoners – the national heroes of the Palestinian people, though Israel itself has in the past exchanged a thousand Arab prisoners for one single Israeli, citing the Jewish religious command of “redemption of prisoners”.
It has been said that
Palestinians know nothing about Jewish history as taught in Israeli schools, very little about the holocaust, even less about the roots of Zionism.
RECENT NEGOTIATIONS started as “peace talks”, continued about a “framework” for further negotiations, and now the talks have degenerated to talks about the talks about the talks.
Nobody wants to break off the farce, because all three sides are afraid of the alternative.
The American side is afraid of a general onslaught of the
Zionist-evangelical-Republican-Adelson bulldozer on the Obama administration in
the next elections. Already the State Department is frantically trying to
retreat from the Kerry “poof”. He did not mean that only
As usual, the Israeli government has many fears. It fears the outbreak of a
third intifada, coupled with a world-wide campaign of de-legitimization and
It also fears that the UN, which at present recognizes
The Palestinian leadership, too, is afraid of a third intifada, which may lead to a bloody uprising. Though all Palestinians speak about a “non-violent intifada”, few really believe in it. They remember that the last intifada also started non-violently, but the Israeli army responded by deploying snipers to kill the leaders of the demonstrations, and more suicide bombing became inevitable.
President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has responded to the non-release of the
prisoners, which amounted to a personal humiliation, by signing the documents
necessary for the
In practice, the act means little. One signature means that
Abbas is also planning steps for a reconciliation with Hamas and the holding of Palestinian elections, in order to strengthen his home front.
IF YOU were poor John Kerry, what would you say to all this?
“Poof!” seems the very minimum.