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John Kerry's Middle East Diplomacy Will Fail If He Keeps Coddling Israeli Apartheid

There is no hint that the U.S. is about to bring any pressure to bear on Israel to end its violations of human rights.

John Kerry campaigning for president in 2004.
Photo Credit: Thomas True/Wikimedia Commons


So there is talk once again of a “new” US initiative in Israel-Palestine diplomacy. We have got a new secretary of state. John Kerry is  shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Hopes are supposed to be rising again. 

Really? We are supposed to cheer the possibility that 21 years of failed US diplomacy might - just might - become 22? There is no indication Israel is any more willing than it ever was to stop violating international law and UN resolutions. There is no evidence that any of the 600,000 or so illegal settlers who are violating international law every morning just by getting out of bed, are at all worried about losing either their illegally built homes or their military protection and privileges guaranteed by the Israeli state. There is no sign the siege of Gaza is being cancelled. And most important, there is no hint that the US is prepared to bring any pressure to bear on Israel to end any of those violations. 

So what is going on? Early leaks are focused on Kerry’s apparent decision to  revisit the 2002 Saudi plan known as the Arab Peace Initiative. That could be interesting. The plan, endorsed by the entire membership of the Arab League, promised full normalisation of relations between the Arab states and Israel and an official end to the conflict - but only in return for “full” withdrawal of Israel from the territory it occupied in 1967, meaning all of Gaza, all of the West Bank and all of occupied East Jerusalem. It also required a “just” settlement of the refugee issue on the basis of UN Resolution 194 - which guarantees the right of Palestinian settlers expelled in 1947-48 to return to their homes in what is now Israel. 

But crucially, in those same early leaks, Kerry was reported to have proposed retooling the Arab Initiative to reflect the usual US-Israeli formulation: a-two-state-solution-with-swaps. In Tel Aviv and Washington that means Israel gets to permanently annex the vast city-sized settlement blocs in Occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the existing settlement-controlled land - leaving in place all but perhaps a few thousand of the 600,000 or so settlers. And crucially, Israel would retain permanent control of all of the West Bank’s main water aquifers. 

Arab Peace Initiative

When the proposal was introduced in 2002, the George W Bush administration briefly noted it as a way to “end the conflict”. But they ignored the obligations it would have imposed on Israel to end its key violations of international law, including occupation, denial of the right of return and more. They treated the Initiative as if it were a unilateral Arab offer to end the conflict on Israel’s and Washington’s own terms. And then Washington dismissed the Arab initiative altogether. 

So Kerry’s latest discussion of revisiting that proposal means little, since it would be undermined by the Obama administration to match the longstanding US-Israeli demands for legalisation of the Israeli theft of Palestinian land and water inherent in the settlement project. Kerry’s view of the Initiative certainly is intended to create a Palestinian “state” denied real sovereignty: denied the right to control its own borders, economy, airspace, off-shore waters, self-defence, etc. With those amendments, reconsideration of the Arab Peace Initiative brings little comfort to those committed a real, lasting, just and comprehensive peace based on international law, human rights and equality for all. 

There is one interesting note - Kerry is now noting that the window for a comprehensive peace settlement leading to a Palestinian state could begin to close. Hardly a revelation for anyone who reads the news - even the mainstream papers have not been able to hide the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, the continuing siege of Gaza, the continued denial of Palestinian refugees’ right to return home, the continuing second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel.  

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