February 21, 2017
New Left Project, July 2013: “we are approaching a potentially historic moment. Why? Because Palestinians are now the weakest they have ever been… Regionally, the Arab world is completely shattered and ready to do whatever the U.S. demands… It’s a shrewd move by the U.S. and Israel to exploit this opportunity to impose a settlement… the Palestinians and the Arab world are at their feeblest, and if we are ever to impose our will, now’s the time.”
New Left Project, January 2014: “Kerry… has in a very deliberate fashion set about lining up all the ducks. The Saudis, Arab League, European Union—the Palestinians are being surrounded and besieged… The Palestine issue has, at least, temporarily, died as a mobilising factor in the Arab-Muslim world… Kerry is no genius, but certainly he shrewdly assessed the lay of the land when he concluded that now was the perfect moment to impose a settlement on the Palestinians.”
New Left Project, March 2014: “Kerry’s proposal will see Israel annex some 10 percent of the West Bank, including the critical water resources and some of the most arable land. The new border, which will run along the path of the Wall that Israel has been constructing, will incorporate the major Jewish settlement blocs… [I]f Netanyahu is forced to dissolve the current government, he (or another prime minister) can still form a new left-centre coalition in order to ratify the agreement… Because popular regional support has evaporated, Palestinians can no longer count on the backing of Middle Eastern states.”
New Left Project, June 2014: “My error was this: I thought that if Kerry presented Israel with an agreement that incorporated Israel’s own bottom line demands, then Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not put up quite as much resistance as he did. I figured he would kick and scream—the usual Israeli theatrics—but that he would come around fairly quickly. As it happened, Netanyahu simply felt no sense of urgency… Netanyahu, it’s clear, reached the conclusion that since the status quo is so comfortable, why sign an agreement? What’s the rush? Netanyahu is constitutionally a centre-right to far-right type of politician. That’s his natural milieu. And so while he theoretically could have formed a centre-left government to push through a settlement, he wasn’t prepared to risk his preferred and existing coalition for a battle that could easily be deferred to his successors… I did not expect so much resistance from Netanyahu, but I was also clear that it would take time. So while the Kerry talks did derail, I don’t yet think that I got it wrong. This would change if Kerry decided to throw in the towel on the Israel-Palestine conflict and pursue his ‘legacy’ elsewhere. But that doesn’t seem to have happened…”
The latest revelations in Ha’aretz show how accurate this analysis was. If Palestinian statehood remains a live concern, it is only because of the extreme rejectionism — even relative to Israel’s own long-standing demands — of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in a secret summit in Aqaba a year ago where then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented a plan for a regional peace initiative including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a renewal of talks with the Palestinians with the support of the Arab countries… Kerry asked during his meetings with Abdullah and Sissi to show support for his plan. He asked that they persuade additional Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to support the plan as well, and take part in a regional diplomatic move that would include a renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry sought to have Abdullah pressure Abbas to agree to renew the talks based on the American plan… Abdullah and Sissi agreed to express support for the plan even though it included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state… Netanyahu decided to abandon the talks with Herzog in favor of having Yisrael Beiteinu join the government, along with the appointment of the party’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, as defense minister.
According to Herzog, in the course of their negotiations he and Netanyahu agreed on several principles regarding a national unity government’s policy on the Palestinians, which included support for the Arab Peace Initiative, building the separation barrier, disengaging from the Palestinians and freezing construction outside the settlement blocs.