Top Ten Ways in which it was Actually the Israeli Gov’t that Derailed the Peace Talks

(By Juan Cole)

Right wing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday blamed the Palestinians for the collapse of peace negotiations that began last August under the auspices of Secretary of State John Kerry. In fact, the Palestinians took no Israeli land whatsoever since August, whereas the Israelis doubled their pace of building squatter settlements on Palestinian territory, territory over which they said they were negotiating! It is like discussing with someone sharing a piece of pie and then looking down and seeing that the other person had snarfed up half of it already.

Here are the top ten things Israel did to cause the negotiations to falter:

1. Even as it was agreeing to restart the talks with Palestine in August, 2013, the Israeli government signaled its lack of seriousness. I wrote then,

“On the eve of resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, the far right Israeli nationalist government of Binyamin Netanyahu attempted to torpedo them with a series of provocative announcements. It announced that it would steal 100 acres of land from Palestinian families and build 240 housing units on it. The same government announced that it will grant 90 Israeli colonies on the Palestinian West Bank a special status bringing them “government grants, infrastructure investment, tax breaks and other benefits.” The colonies receiving these perks included several that had been considered illegal even by the expansionist Netanyahu government until recently.”

Israeli squatter settlements on the Palestinian West Bank

2. On August 11, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel announced his intentions to to publish tenders for 1,187 new Israeli homes in the Palestinian West Bank. Minister Ariel said at the time, “We will continue to build, so it is clear this is just the start. This tune can’t be stopped.” Now that would be reassuring to the Palestinian side, wouldn’t it?

3. In November, Israel announced plans to build 20,000 Israeli squatter settlements on Palestinian territory.

4. Israel doubled its pace of building illegal squatter settlements on the West Bank in 2013 over 2012– 2,534 new housing units versus 1,133 in 2012. President Obama remarked of this vast land theft, “we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time — if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited…”

5. In early January 2014, Netanyahu abruptly began demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” as part of any peace deal. I suspect that this demand was a stealth way of getting prior implicit agreement by the Palestine government to Avigdor Lieberman’s plan to strip over a million Palestinian-Israelis of their Israeli citizenship and render them stateless. In any case, it is a weird demand to make of another country. I pointed out that it is as though the US began demanding that other countries recognize it as a “white state” or a “Christian state” (given the non-religious character of the current Israeli government on the whole, likely “white state” is the appropriate analogy.) The Palestinians pointed out that they had recognized Israel within 1949 borders in the Oslo Peace Accords, in return for Israel returning to them 100% of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel got that enormous concession for free, since it reneged on virtually all the obligations it undertook in the Oslo accords and did not in fact withdraw from any of the West Bank at all.

6. In January 2014, the Netanyahu government released tenders for “the construction of 600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem, which lies over the Green Line [in Palestinian territory], and a further 801 units in settlement blocs in the West Bank [in Palestinian territory].”

7. On January 14, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon attacked Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to secure a negotiated peace, accusing him of having a “messianic obsession”. He said that the American plan for security arrangements was not worth the paper it was printed on and added, “Secretary of State John Kerry — who arrived here determined, and who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.” When a senior member of the cabinet in the government of one of the two parties to a negotiation admits such complete disdain for the negotiator, it isn’t a positive sign. Yaalon concluded, “The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be.” By “let us be,” Yaalon meant “let us go on swallowing up Palestinian territory and kicking Palestinians out of their homes.”

8. In early February, 2014, Netanyahu government members slammed Kerry as an anti-Semitic bigot, slammed Netanyahu for allegedly falling under his influence, and one member of the cabinet actually led a 2000-strong prayer protest with rabbis pleading with Yahweh to remove Mr. Kerry’s Rasputin-like hold over the Israeli prime minister. I wrote at the time,

“Economy Minister Naftali Bennett . . . slammed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as being under Kerry’s influence, when Netanyahu was said to be considering leaving Israeli squatters on Palestinian land under the authority of the Palestine government in a peace deal leading to Israel relinquishing its current annexation project. Naftali Bennett is from the small religious Jewish Home Party that is in coalition with the largely secular Netanyahu government. Jewish Home is dead set against returning to pre-1967 borders or allowing the emergence of a Palestinian state, and has been threatening to withdraw from the government if Netanyahu signs a Kerry-brokered peace treaty with the Palestinians. Now Israeli parliament member Motti Yogev, also from the Jewish Home Party, has attacked Kerry, this time as bigotted against Jews. He said, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is acting under Kerry’s obsessive pressure, which may have anti-Semitic undertones . . . Kerry is not here to reach a compromise. He wants to decrease the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel and create a Palestinian state.” Yogev himself lives in an Israeli squatter settlement on Palestinian territory. Housing Minister Uriel Ariel of the same party led a protest of some 2000 on Thursday, with rabbis praying that Netanyahu will stand firm against Kerry.”

From a Palestinian point of view, the Americans more or less channeled Israeli proposals, so hearing the Israelis denounce their own talking points as anti-Semitic wouldn’t exactly inspire Palestinian confidence.

9. On March 20, 2014, far right wing Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel approved 839 new housing units in Ariel on Occupied Palestinian territory; in addtion, “Some 31 housing units will be built in Almog, in the northern Dead Sea. Additional 350 housing units are planned to be built in Rahel, north of Ramallah.” Almog and Rahel are in the Palestinian West Bank. On March 20, 2014, as well, “the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee just approved the construction of 184 new housing units beyond the Green Line”. . . i.e. on Palestinian territory, at a time Israel was supposedly negotiating to accept a state on Palestinian territory.

10. Israel in late March abruptly reneged on its agreement to release about 100 Palestinian prisoners, put in jail before 1993, whom it had earlier agreed to release as part of the Oslo Peace Accords, but whom it had not in fact let go. The Israelis released 3/4s of the ones it had agreed to but refused to let the last 25 or so go. It was this piece of bad faith (along with all the others above) that impelled Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas to sign the Geneva Convention of 1949 and other international instruments, to which Israel objects (why?).

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Related video:

Kerry says US it is ‘evaluating’ role in Middle East peace talks

20 Responses

  1. Of course, predictably Bibi will keep blaming the occupied, but the above facts, proves who really is to be blamed here, and no one should be surprised, this is typical zionist behavior, the world sees one thing – but the zionist try to whitewash it all with lies and denials. Was Bibi honest enough to admit they kept breaking international laws, and announcing much more illegal settlements, that were detrimental to these peace talks. Why not?
    They do all they can to sabotage these peace talks, and when it fails blames it’s victims. The US media is just as shameless…on Fareed Zakaria GPS, the zionist media (Richard Haas and Bret Stephens, apologists and defenders of Israel). kept echoing Bibi’s blame game, but failed to admit that Israel should take the bigger blame for building illegal settlements non stop, insulting the peace makers, and demanding it be recognized as a Jewish state, which has no bearing on Israel’s security or safety. There is no honesty in our media any more. They see everything through zionist tinted glasses.

  2. That last question mark is very telling.

    After all, what **is** so horrific about Abbas signing the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, or the Convention on Consular Relations, or the Convention on the Treatment of Women?

    None of them is in the slightest way a “threat” to Israel, nor do any of them seek in any way to “change the status of the territory” that is supposed to be negotiated.

    After all, Abbas can sign all of those treaties and the West Bank will **still** be “Israeli occupied Palestinian territory”, which was their status the day before signing those treaties, and will be their status the day after those treaties are signed.

    It is a telling outburst from Netanyahu, because it indicates that his objection is to the very idea of “Palestinian statehood”.

    Abbas wants to show that Israel has No Intention Of Ever Allowing A Palestinian State, and Netanyahu’s response to these innocuous moves simply proves that point.

  3. Perhaps it is time for the United States to recognize a sovereign Palestine, then immediately sign mutual defense and trade agreements with it. Our responsibility is to protect the interests of the United States, not Israeli intransigence.

      • Obama volunteered in competition with Hillary and McCain to be a patsy for the Israel lobby at the AIPAC conference in June 2008 when he was running for president so he wasn’t forced by the lobby.

  4. The Israelis do not want peace. Or rather their leaders do not want to work for peace. They are more concerned about themselves or their party staying in power. There is no courageous leader that is willing to take a bold step and work towards a concrete solution. The Palestinians also have leadership issues; they have a clan / family / tribe structure that does not allow for independent thinking.

    • Quite. Never mind where is the Palestinian Mandela. More importantly, where is the Israeli de Klerk?

  5. Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state has nothing at all to do with religion.

    It is rather a demand that the Palestinians recognize the validity of the Zionist project and Zionist movement.

    Netanyahu, to say nothing of Ben Gurion, Begin, Sharon, has said many times that Jews have a ‘historical’ right, not a religious right, to the ‘land of Israel’.

    Netanyahu sees Jews, as did Jabotinsky, as a race of people related by blood. And he believe in a continuity of Jewish people from ancient times located in Palestine to the present. He most probably believes in a Roman expulsion of Jews from ‘the land of Israel in 70 CE, or possibly 135 CE, though this scenario is unsupported by both historians and archeologists, and in fact is nothing more than a Zionist myth.

    The Zionist project, while having a Christian origin became a project of Jewish writers in the late 19th century. These Jewish writers, centrally Herzl, were secular and not religious.

    • Inside the Israeli cabinet conference room is a prominent portrait of Herzl – who was an atheist. None of his descendants ever resided in Israel. The most recent leadership of Israel’s government’s have included people who are descendants of original right-wing elements that founded Israel in the 1940s:

      (A) PM Netanyahu’s father was personal secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism;

      (B)MK Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister and Mossad employee is the daughter of a former Irgun leader and MK;

      (C)MK Tzachi Hanegbi, a former chair of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Minister is the son of the former operations commander of the Stern Gang;

      (D)Benny Begin, currently a senior figure in the Likud Party and a former MK is the son of former Irgun leader Menachem Begin.

      I could cite many more examples, but the theme is that the violent extremists that founded Israel have had their legacies continue via their children, who continue to control the Israeli government. They have no interest in ceding any land to Palestinians. They wish to perpetuate indefinitely the post-1967 status quo and will continue to do so as long as the U.S. government tolerates it.

  6. I can’t see the US standing up to Israel until after the November election and the adjournment of the old Congress. After that, assuming a more Democratic Congress has been elected, President Obama might consider giving Israel its long-deserved ultimatum.
    Trying to do so just before a big election could be electoral suicide.

    • Let us know if you ever hear a candidate say that he or she will push for the United States to be a truly honest broker in the Israel-Palestine issue. But don’t tell the Lobby or they will pounce on that candidate like some animal after its prey.

    • There will always be some election coming up. Obama will never be running again, so this is his big chance to push for peace.

      • On the other hand he has to give some thought to his post presidential career and the big bucks he will need for his library.

  7. After Clinton’s Camp David, the parties were close to an agreement, and Arafat wanted talks to continue but Dennis Ross said no and went off on his annual family vacation to Israel. Of course Arafat was unfairly blamed for the failure even though there was no offer made in compliance with international law and UN Security Council resolutions. This was because our team was biased pro-Israel. Kerry’s choice of Martin Indyk, a member of previous failed attempts and a former AIPAC official, showed us that he is not serious about peace.

    • I suspect that if you were able to look into it more closely, you might well discover that when Kerry was putting together “his” team, Israel/AIPAC one way or the other told him to choose Indyk, a guy who is essentially a unpaid (e.g. legal) Israeli agent.

      Remember the case of how The Lobby exercised its veto prerogatives with Chas Freedman’s nomination for the NIC?

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      Keep in mind, that position would have been hardly as important a place to have a man as it would be to own the lead diplomate responsible for developing and driving Kerry’s work.

      • Actually, that is what I meant: Kerry, by appointing Indyk, showed that this is an Israel lobby charade. Abbas and Olmert were very close to a peace deal requiring only US bridging proposals. Abbas said there could be peace in a month. Where is our peace proposal?

  8. The whole thing is a farce. Israel has no incentive to play ball as long as they know we have a Congress that will back them even against our own president. The game is the same as usual: Go along to mollify world opinion by convincing them Israel is trying to make peace…but sabotage it the whole way until the Palestinians become so frustrated they refuse to go along with the farce any longer, then blame them for calling off the talks. After that, sit back and relax while US media, Congress, etc. pin the whole blame on the Palestinians for walking away from talks, even though Israel had no intention of the talks ever producing anything and was sabotaging them the whole way.

    500, 1000, 10000 settlements later, keep repeating the process until all that’s left of Palestine is Abu Mazen’s apartment. At that point some people might rejoice that a one state solution is at hand because Israel has backed itself into a corner and nowhere left to go. Nope! They will easily carry out ethnic cleansing, or “transfer” as Lieberman refers to it. Because why not? Who is going to say ANYTHING to them if they have US support? Our own government will lodge a complaint for PR purposes…but they won’t DO anything about it.

  9. Are Zionists influencing CBS programming? Last Sunday’s Charles Osgood program “Sunday Morning” allowed Ben Stein five minutes to channel the Zionist/Netanyahu party line!! And no one to rebut the half-truths and falsehoods!!

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