The United States is Israel’s indispensable ally. Before, during and after the end of the so-called peace talks, Israel enjoyed and will continue to enjoy massive generous strategic, economic, and political support from the US administration. But the rules of the special relationship between Israel and the US are such that the settler-right in Israel has much more to say in determining Israeli policy than the rest of the public.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed peaceful coexistence with the hilltop fanatics for the simple reason that he did not have to satisfy any meaningful US demand for concessions, leaving the settlers as the hegemonic force in the ruling coalition. The absurd situation is of course a total sham and results from the way the US coddles Israeli behavior.
Netanyahu fronted for a gang of right-wing fanatic annexationists and the US consecrated the alliance between the more sophisticated right-wing and the settlers. Despite much readiness in the public for serious (mutual) concessions, neither Netanyahu nor the US demanded willingness for the most minimal concessions.
The US was complicit in making a minority look and act like the majority, thus destroying any chance for serious negotiations. The settlers reigned supreme and Kerry kept on ignoring the real reasons for the political paralysis.
We are supposed to believe that all the massive contributions by the US to and for Israel were unable to give Washington enough clout to influence Israeli behavior. Washington’s complicity meant that Netanyahu was under no pressure to hold back the settler lobby.
It was only a matter of time until it was clear to all that the chance for any sort of compromise was going to go up in smoke. As strange as it seems, Kerry and co. were unwilling to exert an iota of pressure on Netanyahu to force him into a quarrel with his buddies.
It was assumed by all observers that nothing could come out of the talks unless the US was ready to apply a minimum of pressure on the Israeli side. If Washington really wanted Israel to negotiate in good faith it has ample resources to influence the Israeli bargaining position sufficiently to enable genuine progress on a serious deal. As Washington decided on a hands-off policy, it enabled the most fanatical elements in Israel to dictate Israeli bargaining positions.
One must ask: If the US was unwilling to put any pressure on Israel, why did it encourage the sides to go into negotiations? No one envisaged a success in the talks unless the US was going to break the veto by Israel’s fanatic settler-right.
The answer is that Washington believed that the Palestinians were increasingly unable to mount any serious resistance to the Israeli occupation and if a complete Palestinian surrender was not on the cards, the Palestinians would have to subsist on the meager possibilities that fit in with permanent, unending talks. There are no real final-status talks because the negotiations themselves are the final status talks.
There are recent signs that the Palestinians are not willing to play this game indefinitely, but it remains to be seen if the Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) leadership is serious about resisting the US trap, after having entered that trap with open eyes.
Honest friends of peace will be nauseated by this new US-Israeli gambit. No serious person can accept the Kerry performance as a genuine attempt to reach a reasonable agreement. Given their clear and undisguised surrender to the worst annexationist wing in Israeli politics, given their refusal to put their own political alternative on the table, the US, with Obama and Kerry setting the game plan, has been busy trying to keep the negotiation ball in the air ad infinitum.
In this scene, the US monopolizes the contact between the Palestinians and Israel to pose as the honest broker while in fact it nurtures and maintains the given status quo of Israeli regional domination and the ongoing repression of the Palestinians. It is the height of hypocrisy to blame both sides as the US throws the Palestinians under the bus and opens the way for new rounds of vicious Israeli sanctions.
Do not pity the disappointed broker. He is not honest and he is not too smart. He was warned that there could be no progress in these negotiations as long as the US refused to ruffle the feathers on the head of the settler annexationists and challenge their veto power.
Who were John Kerry and his boss trying to fool? In fact, they were trying to break down the last shred of Palestinian resistance. If the Palestinians were not satisfied to subsist on empty talk, they would have to bear the blame for breaking up the dismal affair and suffer the consequences.
The most disgusting scene of all is to see Obama comfort Kerry on his failure and express the hope that Kerry might find other more rewarding areas for new efforts. In fact, Obama and Kerry have delivered the chance for peace into the hands of the worst, hysterical, and fanatical expansionist elements in Israel politics. They have buried any hope for peace and mocked decent-minded Israelis who hoped against hope that the US might not continue acting as it has done in the past.
The US monopolized contact between the Palestinians and Israel to pose as the honest broker, while in fact it nurtures and maintains the given status quo of Israeli regional domination and the ongoing repression of the Palestinians. It is the height of hypocrisy to blame both sides for the crisis in the talks (while US-Israel is one of the sides) as the US throws the Palestinians under the bus and opens the way for new rounds of vicious sanctions against the Palestinians.
* Reuven Kaminer is a veteran Hadash activist, one of the founding editors of the left-wing Hagadah Hasmalit Hebrew site and the author of the book, “The Politics of Protest: The Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada.”