Israel was stunned on Wednesday, as attested to by the morning newspaper headlines, that US Secretary of State John Kerry had effectively “thrown it under the bus” by apportioning the lion’s share of the blame for failed peace talks to the Jewish state.
During a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Kerry explained the failure of his obsessive peace efforts thus:
“The [Palestinian] prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day – and then 700 [housing] units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof.”
Kerry was referring to Israel’s initial postponement of the fourth of four prisoner releases agreed to as a condition for the Palestinian leadership joining the negotiations in the first place.
What Kerry left out is that Israel was prepared to carry out the release, just as it had the previous three, but was fully aware that no agreement was going to be reached by the end of the nine-month timeframe the Americans had put on the current talks.
As such, Israel wanted a guarantee that the talks would be extended, that it wasn’t releasing jailed killers for nothing. The Palestinians refused to provided such a guarantee, strongly suggesting that they had no real intention of reaching a compromise peace settlement.
In referring to “700 units…in Jerusalem,” Kerry was partially blaming the collapse of talks on Israel’s issuing tenders for the construction of new apartments in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, which the Palestinians claim is a “settlement” and must be part of a future Palestinian state.
What Kerry left out is that the issuing of such tenders is routine in large neighborhoods like Gilo, and, more importantly, that Israel has officially annexed the whole of Jerusalem and never committed to not building in its own capital.
The Obama Administration tried to downplay Kerry’s remarks, or at least the order in which they were made. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki insisted that Kerry “was crystal clear today that both sides have taken unhelpful steps and at no point has he engaged in a blame game.”
Indeed, Kerry did accuse both Israel and the Palestinians of taking unhelpful steps. But, as Israeli newspapers and political analysts pointed out, he first, and in much greater detail, blamed Israel.
What Kerry left out is that the “unhelpful” step taken by the Palestinian leadership not only threw a wrench in current negotiations, but was a fundamental violation of all signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians going back to 1993.
As chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni pointed out, when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas signed 15 treaties with international organizations and conventions, he reneged on the Palestinians’ promise to only seek independence and sovereignty via a bilateral agreement with Israel.
In response to Abbas’ maneuvering, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ordered his government to suspend all ties and cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
As things currently stand, an overwhelming 92 percent majority of Israelis do not believe negotiations can lead to a final status peace agreement, according to a survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University. Even 87 percent of left-wing Israelis said peace with the current Palestinian leadership is beyond reach.