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Why Kerry's Mideast Peace Effort Failed

World  (tags: 'HUMANRIGHTS!', conflict, freedoms, israel, middle-east, palestine, politics, violence )

- 1505 days ago -
Analysis: Goal of simply keeping the two sides talking did not reckon with changing political geography on the ground

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Kit B (276)
Saturday April 5, 2014, 6:45 am
Photo Credit: : AP/Charles Dharapak/

The Middle East peace effort by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that ground to a halt earlier this week always looked like a case of history repeating itself. Kerry’s goal was not to conclude the long-stalled negotiation process between Israel and the Palestinian leadership that began 23 years ago; instead he sought a framework agreement that would define the parameters of final-status talks at some point in the future. Even that modest goal proved elusive, however, with Israel’s announcement Thursday formally canceling a fourth limited release of Palestinian prisoners — after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ formal application to join 15 international conventions — signaling an end to the current round of talks about talks.

Prospects for negotiating a two-state solution to conclude the Oslo peace process, launched in 1993, appear more remote than they were 21 years ago. The difference, perhaps, may be in the balance of pressure operating on both sides then compared with now.

Today Israel holds the strategic cards. On the basis of its overwhelmingly superior and unchallenged military strength, it exercises sovereign power from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, as it has done for almost half a century. The Palestinians with whom it negotiates live under Israeli occupation; Abbas cannot leave the West Bank without Israeli permission. And such is the imbalance of leverage between the two sides at the table that Israel can — and does — unilaterally enforce its writ, regardless of what transpires in talks. The Israeli government refuses, for example, to accept the Palestinian demand (backed by an international consensus, including the U.S.) that Israel’s 1967 boundaries should be the territorial basis for negotiating Palestinian statehood. And whether or not talks continue, Israel continues to deepen its grip on land outside those boundaries by expanding settlements.

The Israeli side refused to discuss Jerusalem in the talks about talks and insisted on a new condition: that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians refused, saying that would require signing away the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the claim of millions of refugees to a right of return. They continue to insist on the 1967 lines as the basis for talks, knowing that the Israelis won’t comply but feeling compelled by U.S. pressure to once more repeat a ritual that they know will end in failure — a failure that they hope, despite all evidence to the contrary, will prompt the U.S. to apply more pressure to Israel.

Everyone on both sides knew all this before Kerry’s process started last summer. Nothing had changed in the balance of leverage responsible for past failures, and the status quo on the ground remains comfortable for Israel and intractable for the Palestinians. By proceeding anyway, Kerry may in fact have set back the clock to pre–Oslo Accord times. And what brought the two sides to the table were the internal and external pressures on both.

The carrot approach

In the run-up to the Madrid conference in 1991 — which was the first time Palestinians were permitted to participate in a comprehensive forum negotiating their fate and which may have been a lifeline to the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose diplomatic position had been imperiled by Yasser Arafat’s support of Saddam Hussein in the conflict over Kuwait — then-President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, asked the U.S. Congress to put off a $10 billion loan guarantee to Israel in order to compel it to halt settlement construction. The Republican president said at the time that despite being “up against some powerful political forces … what’s important here is to give the process a chance.”

Today threatening to withhold aid to Israel seems politically unthinkable for any U.S. administration. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively walked President Barack Obama back from his 2009 demand for a settlement freeze. The administration continues to insist that all settlement construction is illegitimate, but it has not imposed any consequences — as Bush did in 1991 —for Israeli defiance on the issue. The U.N. Security Council deems all Israeli settlement on land conquered in the war of June 1967 to be in violation of international law.

Whereas Bush used the stick, the Obama administration brandished only carrots, such as the possible early release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard — not in exchange for a settlement freeze, which the U.S. now appears to have concluded is too much to ask, but for only a vague commitment to slow down construction. The year Kerry launched his process, for example, saw a doubling in the number of new settlement homes constructed in the West Bank.

Freezing settlement construction has been posed as a concession to keep Palestinians talking, but the problem runs deeper. The geography of settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermines the prospects of the creation of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, ostensibly the shared goal of Abbas, Netanyahu and the U.S. The Palestinians are highly unlikely ever to agree to a solution that doesn’t allow them to call East Jerusalem the capital of their state. And West Bank construction plans further balkanize the territory available for any Palestinian state.

The Kerry process appeared to simply evade the facts on the ground and get the two sides talking, reprising conversations they’d been having for years. But whether on the ground or at the table, Israel appears to be in the driver’s seat, under no pressure other than Kerry’s periodic warnings that failure to end the occupation endangers Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and may even bring boycotts and international isolation.

The original premise of the Oslo Accord was that a decades-old conflict could be resolved through bilateral negotiations in a framework based on relevant U.N. resolutions, out of the understanding that it must be a win-win situation for both sides. After 20 years of U.S. mediation, Kerry’s effort set itself the more limited goal of simply managing the process itself, while Israel continues to manage the reality on the ground. His all-too-predictable failure sends an unmistakable message that the current U.S. framework for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become an anachronism.

By: Mairav Zonszein | Al Jazeera News |

Kit B (276)
Saturday April 5, 2014, 6:49 am

I found this to be an objective analysis of the situation, and really what can we hope for but an overall "look" at what is happening?

. (0)
Saturday April 5, 2014, 10:19 am
What a jackass.

JL A (281)
Saturday April 5, 2014, 2:19 pm
What a sad commentary explicating the erosion of progress towards a just peace.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday April 5, 2014, 2:21 pm
Anachronism is a rather polite choice of word, but true of course. Cutting off the billions of military aid would really be the ONLY effective way to move forward.
I've given up hope for the US to EVER come out speaking truth by simply admitting what the world has been seeing for decades: no interest in any change of the status quo. Hence, left for me to say is only what I posted - Join the Anti-Hypocrisy Movement Now. - SIGN PLEASE ! (if you've not already)

Nobody should be surprised to see a third Intifada before the year ends...

fly b (26)
Saturday April 5, 2014, 4:41 pm
I agree with Angelika, "of course. Cutting off the billions of military aid would really be the ONLY effective way to move forward."

Had it only happened years ago! AMERICANS MUST UP THE PRESSURE WILL and BOYCOTT, DIVEST AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL ARE NEEDED. US govt hypocrisy and double standards have to stop..

Hartson Doak (39)
Saturday April 5, 2014, 5:40 pm
It is hard to trust. Especially when a peace agreement is made and missiles still fall from the sky onto your homes. The media rarely tells when the PLO or Hamas or ???? launches these missiles. Put it happens frequently. Till this stops, there will be no peace.

Marija M (31)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 12:18 am
Thank you for posting.

Past Member (0)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 2:12 am
The talk's failed for one simple reason Israel was pressured to make all the concessions while the Palestinians were not prepared to give an inch this was despite their insistence that there should not be any preconditions for talks to continue and then they set about making such preconditions and impossible demands which they knew could not be met.

Patricia Martinez (63)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 6:11 am

That's it in a nutshell, Alfred Donovan. Thank you for standing up and telling the truth.


Abdessalam Diab (145)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 7:06 am
Thanks Kit for this post. Once more negotiations are going to fail. Every time negotiations start Israel doesn't only want to start from point zero and deny the outcome of previous negotiations but also to put more conditions. This time the new condition was to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state in order to immediately escalate Lieberman 's plan to transfer Arab Israeli citizen from Israel which is unacceptable under any circumstances . Israel wants to negotiate till the end of the world without reaching any solutions. Negotiations are abused by the Zionist entity to gain more time to expand,steal land and build more settlements creating more obsticals for a viable Palestinian state.
At the same time Netanyahu is not the kind of leaders who are brave enough to do it. He is not Sadat, begin,Arafat,or Yitzhack Rabin .He is a puppet in the hands of settlers .

The failure of Obama to put enough pressure on Netanyahu,due to the pressure of AIPAC and similar US Zionist supporting organizations, to freeze settlements building since his first term in the White House is a main reason for the present situation. Israel feels protected by the US Zionist organizations and that Obama administration is helpless in front of Israel.

The way out?

Let us go to the ONE STATE solution " Palestine " as acknowledged by League of Nations after world war one. A democratic state where both Jews and Arab Palestinians have equal civil,political and religious rights .

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 7:29 am
The present negotiations should had taken place since 1998 according to what both sides have agreed in Oslo accords but Israel didn't keep its word. It apparently seems to be not willing for peace. Further more I believe that the existing circumstances are not going to produce a positive fair settlement. Neither Egypt nor Syria are in their best case .I don't think that a fair deal can be achieved in such circumstances. I began to think that the ONE STATE " Palestine" is the best solution.

Past Member (0)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 8:59 am
Peace in the Middle East is a pipe dream. The Palestinian *conflict* could only be resolved by the destruction of Israel, which any sane person realizes will never happen.
Even if, in this pipe dream, Israel were to be destroyed ot wouldn't end the internal conflicts in the region.
There has NEVER been peace in the Middle East.
One state? Who provides and who benefits?

Stephen Brian (23)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 10:11 am
One-sided power in the area?

Yup, that's what happens after defeat in war. It sucks to lose, but then losers, in the Western tradition, negotiate. They, above all, do not keep fighting. Continued use of violence to press victors in war to negotiate is not a pressure-tactic. It is the continuation of a futile war with predictable results. Here's a piece of advice to everyone, that Palestinians should heed: Don't bring a knife to a tank-fight, rocks to an artillery-battle, or a gun to an aerial bombing.

As for the rest, no country has ever, outside of unconditional surrender, given up control of any part of its capital. If Palestinian leaders will not accept peace without Israel giving in to demands unprecedented in human history, as Israelis get more and more secure and have less incentive to achieve peace, then Palestinians will never have peace. Especially now that Israel is able to produce large amounts of oil, and the West invests heavily in reducing its reliance on oil overall, time is not in any way on the Palestinian leaders' side.

Jonathan H (0)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 3:20 pm

Jonathan H (0)
Sunday April 6, 2014, 3:22 pm

Past Member (0)
Monday April 7, 2014, 7:28 am
Negotiations failed because Palestinian Arabs get BILLIONS of dollars yearly through UNWRA and directly. As long, as they are paid for being "refugees" living under "occupation", even though their whole lives they lived, say, in Egypt, they will have to interest to make peace and LOSE THE BILLIONS.

To achieve that peace, Palestinian refugees have to be treated equally with other refugees of the world, UNWRA must be disbanded and Arab states must be hold responsible for the wars they started and obligated to contribute into the conflict resolution.

Past Member (0)
Monday April 7, 2014, 7:29 am
Kit, you know that Al-Jazeera promotes extremist Islamic views, why do you decide to post articles from there?

Kit B (276)
Monday April 7, 2014, 8:39 am

I know that Al Jazeera America is the best news site for straight forward news, with no bias. No one forced you to read the article, Bob.

Past Member (0)
Monday April 7, 2014, 8:53 am
Al Jazeera was banned in Arab countries for being liars and provocateurs. This is a network for Islamist extremists. Why would a person who is looking for "straight forward news" look at them in the first place? How about ElectronicIntifadah? Or Maan? Or Al-Manar?


Abdessalam Diab (145)
Monday April 7, 2014, 1:28 pm
Thanks Ros G for your comment.One of the steps Palestinian authority ( PA ) is going to take is to sign the agreement of the International Criminal Court ( ICC). This will allow PA to go to ICC and deal with the occupation from a legal point of view. Don't forget that International Court of Justice ( ICJ ) : ruled that West Bank fence is illegal and that Israel must tear it down .Ruling says security needs do not justify barrier; says completed fence could become 'tantamount to annexation' of Palestinian lands.


Abdessalam Diab (145)
Monday April 7, 2014, 1:37 pm
Look at the arrogance in Stephen's comment. It is obvious that he had forgotten how Hitler used to talk about how strong was Germany. How Americans though they were going to win in Vietnam ,How the British empire thought it was going to occupy Afghanistan......AND WHERE ARE THEY NOW ?

Past Member (0)
Monday April 7, 2014, 2:02 pm
Like Egypt in 1967?? ** on May 27, Nasser stated "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.**

Past Member (0)
Monday April 7, 2014, 2:16 pm
Ab, as soon, as Palestinian Arabs will sign up to ICC, they can be sued for the war crimes and crimes against humanity, which they commit often.

ICC is not authorized to resolve border disputes.

Speaking of strength, you know that as soon, as western tax payers stop paying billions of dollars to support Palestinian Arabs directly and through UNWRA and force Arab states to pay for their aggression against Israel peace will come immediately.

Arab states like to do proclamations at UN because it does not cost them anything. Their love for Palestinians evaporates when they need to contribute something real.

That is the hint for Kerry, if he wants to make peace.

Stephen Brian (23)
Monday April 7, 2014, 2:19 pm
Hi Abdessalam :)

Are you of the opinion that war is still ongoing between Israel and Palestinians? If so, then would the militias constitute a Palestinian army? I mean, if that's the case, then they're a popular Palestinian army operating out of populated areas, negating all protection under the Geneva Conventions for Palestinian civilians in the areas from which they operate. (Under the Conventions, Israel would be obliged to disregard the civilians when striking at the militias and fault for the deaths of all Palestinian civilians during Israeli incursions would lie with the militias.) Also, any claims of "occupation" would be just silly as the front of war would still be in the locations supposedly occupied. I had been of the impression that most posters here did not believe the Palestinians to still be engaged in war against Israel.

Hi Kit :)

No, al Jazeera kinda sucks as far as unbiased news is concerned. I remember catching them in a hilarious lie following the Mavi Marmara incident: Their reporter talked about how the people on the ship were peaceful within five seconds of one of their weapons, bloody, passing in front of the camera. (The chair's frame was bloody, but not the canvas between the pieces of frame, meaning someone had been beaten with it, and not that a bleeding person had sat on it.)

Craig Pittman (52)
Tuesday April 8, 2014, 6:06 am
Sad and with no prospect of substantive negotiations nor settlement of issues now or any time in the near future. An mposed settlement would seem to be the only viable solution through the International court.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 8, 2014, 8:03 am
There are a few problems with depending on the ICC to do any good:

First, it uses the U.N. as its "unbiased" data-source and the U.N. gathers zero information on Palestinian militias' war-crimes. With one-sided data, its conclusion would be predictable.

Second, the ICC is no less subject to politics than the U.N. We like to think of courts as being politically neutral and justice being blind, but that's just not true where significant political interests are involved. There are two reasons for this: In the West, politics depend upon a matter of philosophy that guides analysis of data, in and out of political contexts. If jurors use their best judgment and their judgment is affected, and affects, their politics, they will be politically biased. Outside of the West, tribalism and fear of authorities often trump rule of law. Jurors have bigger things to worry about than following the rules for their jobs.

Third, the ICC is fundamentally powerless. Palestinian war-crimes have already been exposed. Those who care, care. Those who don't, don't. as for enforcement, it's pretty tough to arrest somebody who is protected by an army. It's even tougher to keep that person imprisoned for trial when such an arrest is treated as an act of war and that army threatens to attack the prison in retaliation. Even worse, those who commit war-crimes, usually, are more concerned with their causes and the danger they face without the tactical advantage a war-crime offers than with any penalty. Unless we want the ICC to start torturing prisoners, murdering their families, or doing something else similarly brutal, there is no way its penalties and likelihood of effective enforcement can outweigh the motive to commit war-crimes so there is no way it can stop them.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday April 9, 2014, 6:55 am
April 7, 2014

Shurat Hadin to File Lawsuits Over Palestinian WarCrimes

*The nongovernmental organization is seeking to initiate lawsuits for crimes against humanity. Its lawyers said they would submit documents alleging that Palestinian officials in both Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, are directly involved with aiding and encouraging terrorism against Israeli citizens.*

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Thursday April 10, 2014, 3:14 am
The fact that the settlements was one of the reasons for the meltdown of the talks will be clearly understood in the European Union’s institutions in Brussels and in the various foreign ministries on the Continent. That is precisely what Jerusalem is afraid of. The Europeans have warned Israel a number of times over the past few months that if the talks broke down over construction in the settlements there would be consequences in the form of additional European sanctions. The marking of products from the settlements in European supermarkets is a step waiting on the shelf for implementation.

Kerry’s remarks made clear what Jerusalem should have understood by now – there is no symmetry in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is perceived by the United States and the rest of the world, and rightly so, as the stronger party, as the occupying power and the entity with the greatest ability to change reality on the ground, for good and for bad. And so the big loser in any failure will always be Israel.

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Thursday April 10, 2014, 3:26 am
Again look at the arrogance of Stephen ! ! ! Talking about IDF and attacking any prison where Israeli criminals will be detained shortly. I again remind you Stephen to read something about the great empires how they started,expanded and became full of arrogance like you and the Zionist entity and how they failed and disappeared. There you will see the future of your beloved Zionist entity. Wake up because more people are waking up and moving against Israel's occupation and arrogance. One day it will disappear if it continued to behave they way it is right now.No matter how long it will take, IT WILL HAPPEN.

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Thursday April 10, 2014, 3:44 am
Netanyahu wants the peace talks to go on - and on and on
But he does not even dream of giving up the West Bank.
By Nehemia Shtrasler | Apr. 8, 2014
Imagine that you have sold an apartment and are supposed to receive payment in four equal installments. The first three payments have been made on time, but the fourth has not. The buyer notifies you that he is not willing to pay, but suggests you sign a new agreement with different dates and payments. Anyone would respond by saying: I have lost faith. Make the fourth payment, and then we will discuss the rest.

That is exactly what happened between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu did not release the fourth round of prisoners as promised and proposed a new deal instead. Abu Mazen simply wanted what had been decided to be fulfilled. So how can anyone claim that the Palestinians broke the agreement and blew up the talks and that they cannot be trusted? After all, they submitted their application to join 15 United Nations agencies and conventions only in response to the violation of the agreement and the announcement of the construction of 708 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo — which is tantamount to poking two fingers in Abu Mazen’s eyes.

We talk about the severe pressure being put on Benjamin Netanyahu by the far right. But Abu Mazen has his own Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danons, Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkins and Economy Minister Naftali Bennetts. They accuse him of collaborating with Israel, say that Netanyahu is humiliating him and demand that he abandon the path of restraint and resume terror attacks because the Israelis understand only force.

Political-economy studies conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem show that terror attacks and terrorism shift public opinion in Israel to the left, toward further concessions and more agreement “to finish with this already” and reach an arrangement.

Netanyahu did not just happen to violate the agreement. Not releasing the 26 prisoners supports his political survival. The move prevents Danon and Elkin from resigning from the government, which would undermine the coalition’s stability and increase the pressure on the Habayit Hayehudi party ministers to resign as well. On the other hand, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni are stuck to their seats with super glue. Lapid has already stopped announcing his doubts that Abu Mazen is interested in an agreement. It seems he has no doubts about Netanyahu, the pursuer of peace.

I pity those who see the talks as any kind of opening for an agreement. Netanyahu does not even dream of signing a document that would mean returning to the 1967 border, with slight alterations, and evacuating 100,000 settlers. His goal is to stay in the territories forever. All the rest is tactics. On one occasion, he endorses the two-state solution in a speech at Bar-Ilan University; on another, he freezes construction; on another, he releases prisoners; on another, he sits down for talks, and on yet another, he blows up those talks up. All means are fair to buy time, “because time is on our side.” Every day that passes means gaining one more home and one more tree, one more road and one more family, and the more settlers there are, the harder it will be to evacuate them. After all, at one time, there was no “consensus” about keeping the settlement blocs. Now there is. Tomorrow there will also be a consensus that “there is no partner,” and we will all join the Likud party.

Netanyahu behaved as though he believed all this during his first term. On the eve of the elections, he announced that he accepted the Oslo Accords, but as soon as he got into power in 1996, he opened a controversial tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem, set the West Bank alight, caused a bloodbath, expanded the settlements and destroyed Israel’s relationship with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, until he succeeded in wiping out the Oslo Accords — which were, as far as he was concerned, a strategic threat of withdrawal and peace.

So he had no problem going back to the negotiating table. That is part of the tactics: sitting down, talking, discussing and exchanging opinions ad infinitum. It is good for lowering the internal pressure, and the external pressure as well.

Now, it is also clear why Netanyahu loved Israeli rocker Arik Einstein. He certainly would listen with a bit smile to the song Einstein sang, with lyrics written by Natan Alterman: “Soon, the talks will go on, the talks will go on/the talks go on, the talks go on/and the wanderer gets lost in the thickets of the talks.”


Abdessalam Diab (145)
Thursday April 10, 2014, 3:59 am
Meretz Chairwoman and MK Zahava Gal-on said Israel ‘gave US the finger’ in peace talks, left-wing and that Kerry’s statements were "further proof that the extreme rightist… coalition has no interests in reaching an agreement, but rather is dragging out the negotiations and endangering Israel’s existential interests." She called Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister and chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni “the government’s fig leaf."

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Thursday April 10, 2014, 4:33 am
Sign this petition and share as wide as possible

The right to criticize Israel is at stake on campuses across the country.

Boston-JVP rallies hundreds to defend SJP.
© Pat Westwater-Jong

Free Speech on Campus: Except to talk about Palestinian rights.

Kit B (276)
Thursday April 10, 2014, 6:42 am

Thanks Abdessalam, petition just signed through email from JVP. I appreciate that you posted the petition here.

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Friday April 11, 2014, 4:22 am
Thanks Ros
Only brave leaders can make peace. Netanyahu isn't that kind of leaders. He leads the settlers..

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Friday April 11, 2014, 4:25 am
Thanks Kit.Let us spread the word.

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Friday April 11, 2014, 4:35 am
Dear Abdessalam,

soupGrowing up, Passover was my favorite holiday. I loved the Passover story about the Jews being saved from the evil Pharaoh in Egypt. I loved the miracle of the parting of the sea and survival crossing the desert (as a kid raised in the Arizona desert, I felt a special kinship with those early Israelites). I loved the Seder — especially the part where we dipped our fingers in the wine as we enumerated each plague. And I of course loved the food, particularly my mother’s matzo balls (sinkers, not floaters) and the red horseradish that always made me sniffle and sneeze — and which, invariably, somebody spilled on the tablecloth to leave a permanent beet juice stain.


As a child raised in a Reform Jewish family, I was taught from a young age that thinking critically (and being intellectually honest) is a core Jewish value. I was also raised not just to love the holidays, but to love Israel — and to see supporting and defending Israel against all criticism as a component of my Jewish identity.

The lesson to think critically and apply intellectual honesty guided me as I grew older and found myself re-considering my feelings about the Passover story. I recall the first time it occurred to me to be troubled by the fact it was not only Jews who were slaves and who suffered. And I remembered the first time I really thought about the fact that the Pharaoh’s soldiers who drowned when the sea ceased its parting were in their own way victims.

In the late 1990s, while living in Jerusalem and spending time in the West Bank and Gaza, I discovered first-hand a painful reality: Defending Israel against all criticism and simultaneously thinking critically and applying intellectual honesty were mutually exclusive. Over the next two years spent mainly in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, I encountered the harsh realities of occupation, settlements, abuses of human rights, racism, and discrimination. The experience shattered my illusions about Israel and in the process, fractured the foundation of my Jewish identity.

Re-building that identity was the work of years, as I wrestled with what it meant to me to be a Jew who both loves Israel and has deep concerns about its actions and policies.

Today I have no questions about my Jewish identity or what it means with respect to Israel. I am a proud Jew who unapologetically loves Israel. I am also a Jew who out of love of Israel refuses to stand by passively — either out of anger, indifference, or exhaustion — and allow extremists to hijack this amazing nation and its future. In the same way today I love Passover, but differently than I did as a child.

city passageway
Both my sense of self as a Jew and my love for Israel are far more complex and mature than they were when I was child, but they are also far more profound. The credit for this goes, in large part, to Peace Now and Americans for Peace Now. Working actively for Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace has enabled me to see and embrace all that is good in Israel.

Israel is an amazing nation — full of energy, creativity, innovation, a good dose of chutzpah, and most important for me, home to patriotic citizens who refuse to stop fighting for Israel’s future. Like me, they are fighting for a progressive, democratic, tolerant Israel. It is in the company of such Israelis — my colleagues in the Israeli Peace Now movement — that I have witnessed not only the most troubling things, but also the most inspiring. Their courage humbles me. Their commitment drives my own.

Our work at APN, and Peace Now’s work in Israel, can and does make a difference. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Peace Now and APN were lonely voices making the case for peace — taking what were then radioactive positions like supporting the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and supporting two capitals in Jerusalem. Today, these and other APN positions —- including our view that the occupation and settlements are anathema to Israel’s security, its international standing, its economic health, and the health of its society — are widely embraced in Israel and around the world. Today, the two-state solution has become accepted as the consensus, reasonable approach to ending this conflict. Today, these positions are embraced by Israeli national security leaders like all six living former leaders of the Shin Bet, who spoke out candidly in the Oscar-nominated film The Gatekeepers. Indeed, today, when Israeli national security leaders like them talk about the Palestinians and Israel’s best interests — or people like former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or Tzippi Livni — many incredulously comment that they sound like Peace Now.

To be sure, some people — both in Israel and the U.S. — say they support two-states, but they don’t seem to mean it. For them, negotiations seem to just be cover to keep building settlements, perhaps in the hopes that soon the two-state solution will be dead. Others seem to believe that there can be an agreement based on a Palestinian “state” that is geographically Balkanized, with no connection to East Jerusalem and no real sovereignty. This doesn’t pass the political laugh test, let alone the test of being politically and economically viable.

The trend of Israeli governments talking peace while actively undermining it on the ground — bolstered by a growing right-wing trend inside Israel that openly opposes the two-state solution and supports settlements — continues today. This is the reason why APN and Peace Now have taken a courageous step: We have begun actively calling for boycotting settlements and the occupation.

We did not undertake the call lightly —- we know that the whole idea of boycotting anything associated with Israel is painful.

We also know that for decades, cognitive dissonance has reigned in Israel. Most Israelis support peace and are ready to cede land to achieve it. Successive Israeli governments have committed themselves to pursuing peace. All the while, settlers and their supporters have worked feverishly to establish facts on the ground to prevent peace and a two-state solution. Their efforts have flourished in the context of government support.

Today we say without apology: boycott the settlements and the occupation. Settlements aren’t Israel. Boycotting settlements isn’t boycotting Israel (which explains why the global BDS movement finds settlement boycotts problematic). Rather, boycotting settlements and the occupation is a means of breaking through the cognitive dissonance. It tells Israelis and their leaders that continued settlement expansion and support for peace are mutually exclusive, and that there is a price for handing their nation’s future to ideologues who value land and settlements over peace, security, and Israel’s standing in the world.

Today I’m asking you to join me in fighting for Israel’s future. Support the work of Americans for Peace Now and our colleagues in the Peace Now movement. All of us —- Jews and non-Jews alike who care about Israel and cannot close our eyes to what we know is wrong — must continue to fight for a better, different future for Israel.

Defend Israel and fight for peace by helping us spread the word — about settlements, about the realistic requirements for a two-state solution, about the need for courageous U.S. leadership to achieve peace, about settlement boycotts, and about how the occupation is harming Israel at every level. Help people understand that Israeli government policies which promote settlements and deepen the occupation, more than any other factor, feed “delegitimization” of Israel.

Ask us and we’ll be happy to send this letter to someone you know. Let us help you organize a conference call with members of your synagogue or place of worship. Work with us to bring speakers to your community. Join our Action Network, so you can help amplify calls to your elected officials to support policies that are consistent with peace, security, and the two-state solution, as well as with U.S. national interests.

Lara Friedman
Director of Policy and Government Relations

Lara Friedman is the Director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now (APN), the Washington-headquartered sister organization of the Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav). As a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Israeli settlements policy, and Jerusalem, Friedman frequently meets and briefs Members of Congress, U.S. Administration officials, foreign diplomats, and other members of the foreign policy community. She is a trusted resource for journalists and policymakers, and regularly publishes opinion and analysis pieces in the U.S. and Israeli press. A former Foreign Service Officer, Friedman served in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis, and Beirut (and briefly in Khartoum), and speaks French, Spanish and Arabic


Jonathan H (0)
Friday April 11, 2014, 10:58 am
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