Is this what is supposed to happen when someone parrots Israeli Labor Party policy toward the Palestinians? As I told host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh a few minutes ago, I’ve seen terms on social media applying to John Kerry and Barack Obama that I can’t repeat on the radio and won’t quote here, either–all because Kerry made a case for a Palestinian state next to Israel in peace, in much the same way as Israeli moderates do, and polls continue to show that about half the Israeli people support.
All the reactions I’ve seen so far, except for the Canadian CIJA–both for and against–miss two main points that Kerry missed:
First of all, Israel offered the Palestinians a state exactly according to the outline he presented, in 2000 and 2008, and the Palestinians turned it down. Then Kerry himself made a similar offer within the last year, and the Palestinians turned it down again. That should have been part of the speech, evidence (as if we needed any) that there are two sides to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and not everything depends on what Israel does.
Second, settlements are not the most important issue in the conflict. The Palestinians have persuaded the world that the settlements are endangering the chances for a two-state solution. Nonsense. An aerial view of the West Bank shows that most of the settler population is close to the old cease-fire line that marks the edge of the West Bank, and the others, with a couple of notable exceptions, are just little dots on the map. Pulling out of Gaza in 2005 and dismantling its settlements there, Israel proved the obvious–once there’s a border, the settlement issue goes away automatically.
It’s not surprising that Obama and Kerry have bought into the settlement argument, since the US and most of the world have considered Israeli settlement in the West Bank illegal since it started in 1968, but now Israel’s own prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has reinforced that with his overblown hissy fit over the UN Security Council resolution, which will be just as ineffective as all the rest of the UN resolutions after approval of creation of the state of Israel in 1947. It does fit in with his use of settlement construction as some kind of “punishment” against the Palestinians and the world when he doesn’t like something, fueling contentions the isn’t serious about his acceptance of a two-state solution.
The sorry result of all this noise is that a peaceful solution is another step further away today. Netanyahu will use this to prove to his followers that Israel is under threat, it’s in grave danger, it must hunker down and be strong. That’s how he stays in power.
That might change if someone emerges among Israeli moderates who can articulate Labor Party policy half as effectively as Kerry did.