News about the Israeli-Palestinian moribund peace process have filled newspapers and programs over the past few days, and with good reason.
First, there was the UNSC resolution which declared all settlements to be illegal. The Obama Administration, breaking with decades-long tradition, abstained from the vote, thus allowing its passage. Some reports indicate that the Obama administration did not just refrain from vetoing the resolution, but was active behind the scenes to ensure all other UNSC members voted in favor of it.
Second, there was the enraged reaction to the resolution by Benjamin Netanyahu. This included the recall of ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal, canceling aid programs to countries which supported the resolution, and having dressing-down talks with ambassadors of the fourteen countries which voted for it. I don’t recall an instance of such drastic diplomatic steps by any Israeli prime minister.
Finally, there was Secretary John Kerry’s speech yesterday, in which he laid out his vision of what an Israeli-Palestinian peace process and conflict resolution might look like.
But the biggest news item, one whose significance all news organizations that I’ve read have neglected to appreciate, is a threat made by long-time Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat.
Responding to reports that Donald Trump may finally fulfill a promise made by a number of former US presidents and move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Erekat threatened that this would kill the peace process, cause widespread chaos in the region, and lead the Palestinian Authority to rescind its recognition of Israel.
Let’s respond to his threats one a time:
One, The peace process is already dead, Mr. Erekat, and you are one of its executioners. You and your colleagues rejected offers for a state because it involved allowing the Jews to have one of their own. Your terror campaign in the 90s and the first decade of this century decimated the peace parties in Israel and led to the prolonged rule of right-wing parties.
Two, the region is already in chaos, or haven’t you noticed? Libya is a mess, Syria is no more, Egypt is facing frequent terror attacks, Jordan and Lebanon are in a precarious situation, Iraq and Yemen are both countries at internal war. I doubt moving an embassy could lead to a much more chaotic situation than exists now.
Three, if you’re threatening that the Palestinians rescind their recognition of Israel should the US move its embassy to Jerusalem – not to the contested eastern part of the city, but the western part, which Israel has controlled since its inception – what guarantee does Israel have that should a Palestinian State come to be that it wouldn’t rescind its recognition of Israel at the earliest pretext?
What is the worth of any peace agreement with such a threat hanging over its head?
Can somebody answer this question? President Obama or John Kerry, perhaps?