American negotiators connected to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative warned in an interview with Israeli media last week that the Palestinians will eventually have their state, either through violence or unilateral maneuvering.
Many Israelis were outraged, saying the remarks came dangerously close to condoning both Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian leadership’s rejection of Israel’s peace demands.
The negotiators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told leading Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea of Yediot Ahronot that, in their assessment, primary blame for the failure of the peace talks falls to Israel.
“There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth - the primary sabotage came from the settlements,” the Americans stated. “The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state.”
It should be noted that past agreements have never prohibited Israel from building new homes inside the confines of existing Jewish settlements, which is in fact what was taking place over the past nine months.
The Americans conceded that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had outright rejected a number of proposals put to him by Kerry and US President Barack Obama, but insisted Abbas had done so only because he was tired and had been put in an impossible situation by Israel.
According to these negotiators, Abbas had earlier agreed to a demilitarized Palestinian state, to Israel retaining control over large Jewish settlement blocs (including Jewish-dominated areas of eastern Jerusalem), and had promised that the return of “Palestinian refugees” to Israel proper would only happen at the willingness of the Israelis.
If the Americans interviewed are to be believed, Abbas was ready to accept Jewish “settlement activity” in those areas he conceded would remain part of Israel if only Netanyahu would have agreed to outline a final, acceptable border.
In hindsight, however, that assertion sounds rather dubious. The “settlement” announcement identified by the Americans as driving the final nail in the coffin of negotiations was a tender for 700 new apartments in the Gilo neighborhood in southern Jerusalem.
But, if Abbas had already conceded that Gilo would remain part of Israel, why was this such a problem?
The Americans didn’t seem to be interested in such nuances. “The Palestinians are tired of the status quo,” Kerry’s negotiators quipped. “They will get their state in the end - whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.”
In a commentary submitted to CNN, former Knesset member Einat Wilf wrote that the blame game the Americans are now playing is a big part of the problem.
“At the end of the day, Israelis and Palestinians are not children – they are political players quite capable of making their own calculations and choosing alternatives that are the least bad from their own perspective,” wrote Wilf. “They might not always be the alternatives that outside observers think they should choose, but both sides should, as other peoples around the world are, be free to judge what is in their own interests.”