As the US Secretary of State's hopes of brokering a peace deal between Israel and Palestine falter, we ask if he was ever on the right pathby Tom Phillips / April 9, 2014 / Leave a comment
John Kerry has hinted that Israel is to blame for the deadlocked Middle East peace process
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has faltered in his attempt to bring about a US-brokered peace in the Middle East. In remarks made yesterday to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Kerry suggested that he holds Israel primarily responsible for the apparent failure of his eight-month attempt to broker a “framework for negotiations,” as the basis for a determined push for a final deal in the year ahead.
Kerry singled out Israel’s failure to release further prisoners, and the subsequent announcement of yet more settlement construction in East Jerusalem, as prompting the Palestinian request to sign 15 international conventions. Today’s announcement that, in response, the Israelis will halt cooperation with Palestinian entities suggests that the blame game—and the downward spiral—is far from over. As Kerry’s hopes of progress fade, it is time to ask if he was ever on the right path.
Even those who, like myself, had reluctantly concluded that a two-state solution was no longer possible (as I wrote in Prospect in August 2012), were impressed by the evidence of Kerry’s commitment to this issue, despite criticism that other more pressing problems in the region and elsewhere should have been his priority. He saw, correctly, that this remains the frontline of Islamic perceptions of western double standards. And that this is a human tragedy—for both Israelis and Palestinians—which has gone on too long.
So, where did Kerry go wrong? His key failure was to ignore the need to invite the two sides to negotiate on the basis of clearly laid-out American parameters. Yes, there would have been a risk that the process would never have started, given the possibility that the current Israeli government would have refused to entertain anything resembling what Clinton put on the table in December 2000, or the Geneva Initiative, or the Olmert 2008 offer to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But any credible two-state solution will have to be based on something resembling these templates, and to imagine that it would be possible to fashion a “framework for negotiations” which both sides would sign up to was an even more challenging ask.
Kerry allowed himself to be drawn too closely towards Israeli positions on the key issues of Jerusalem and security in the Jordan Valley, and an initial insistence…