by David M. Weinberg
Over the last 48 hours, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a series of apocalyptic warnings. While trying to sound like an analyst and a friend, he has, in effect, threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with boycott and isolation and even (Palestinian) violence if Israel doesn't facilitate the continuation of Kerry's peace process by acceding to Kerry's terms.
In so doing, Kerry is setting up a situation of self-fulfilling prophecy, and backhandedly legitimizing the horror scenarios if and when the "peace process" breaks downs.
"Today's status quo," he warned Netanyahu, "absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It is not sustainable. It is illusionary. You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?"
Now, Palestinian media is reporting that Kerry told Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas that he would "meet the same fate as Yasser Arafat" if he turned down Washington's proposals for peace with Israel. Abbas is said to be furious, interpreting Kerry's remarks as a veiled death threat!
Jamal Muhaissen, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, is now counter-threatening Kerry with a suit before the International Criminal Court for threatening the life of the Palestinian president.
What Kerry probably meant, if he truly made this remark, is that Abbas would lose American support and funding, and find himself isolated from the world, if he fails to advance towards peace -- as happened to Arafat after the Second Intifada.
In any case, I doubt that this story out of Ramallah is true. It's probably a smoke-screen meant to desensitize world opinion about Kerry strong-arming Israel (and only Israel).
Needless to say, the warnings that Kerry has directed at the two sides are not equal. He is not an equal opportunity threatener.
Israel has borne the brunt of Kerry's behind the scenes pressures, and his public exhortations and admonitions. The American secretary of state has repeatedly returned to the "oy-vey-Israel-is-going-to-be-boycotted" theme, and more than once threatened our economic prosperity. He used his now-infamous television interview two months ago (given jointly to Israeli and Palestinian TV) to hector Israel, not the PA.
By contrast, Kerry has never once publicly warned the PA leadership that this is their last chance for a Palestinian state. He has never publicly warned Abbas that the Palestinian Authority would forfeit its international largesse and 'economic prosperity' if he (Abbas) doesn't "demonstrate moderate leadership" by accepting Kerry's proposals.
Kerry has warned Netanyahu that this diplomatic process is Israel's last chance to save its Jewish and democratic character. Kerry has never once publicly warned Abbas that this process is the last Palestinian chance to gain recognized statehood.
Getting real tough with the Palestinians just isn't politically correct, you see, and it is anyway so much more fun to beat up publicly on Netanyahu.
The only rational response to Kerry's attempts at intimidation is sangfroid.
With composure and self-assurance, Israel needs to say to Kerry: "Yes, we truly desire peace and appreciate your indefatigable attempts to bridge the gaps between us and the Palestinians. But Israel will manage even if no grand deal with the Palestinians is currently achievable -- as lamentably, we knew from the beginning and feared would be the case."
"Israel's international standing is not going to 'crumble' if it gets censured by you, Mr. Secretary. Israel will hold together and prosper even if it doesn't accept Abbas' demand for sovereignty in Jerusalem or your demand, Mr. Secretary, that Israel rely on American satellites and cameras to hold the Jordan Valley line."
"So don't threaten us, Mr. Kerry. You may want a deal now -- this deal on your terms -- more than Israel does. We're truly sorry and disappointed that you are prepared to slap down dictated contours of peace and say: accept this or suffer the consequences -- even though you promised that you weren't going to impose anything."
"But Israel takes the long view. Our demands for historical rights, recognition and security in the Land of Israel are solid and sustainable for the long term. And we will wait out our adversaries, and weather American impatience, until conditions and partners for peace improve, thank you very much."
David M. Weinberg
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