A Failed Process
Considering the efforts made by the US to restart the Middle East peace process, why did they fail to achieve their desired result?
There are two reasons behind this failure; one reason is that it seems that John Kerry himself was not aware of the depth of the issues and their complexities and assumed that he could bring both parties, i.e. Israel and Palestine, to the negotiating table and resolve the issues. But he was later faced with certain obstacles and understood the complex issues and the difficulties in resolving the differences. Of course, there is also the possibility that John Kerry knew from the beginning that these matters are not easily resolved but his objective was only to bring the two sides to the negotiating table and continue this trend for a long period of time so that the US would be able to resolve other issues of the region, especially the crisis in Syria and Iraq and also negotiation with Iran, so that the Middle East peace process would not impact other issues.
The other reason is the stubbornness of the Netanyahu government because basically Netanyahu does not intend to find a solution and there is no way that this problem could be solved. Israel does not accept to withdraw from the western bank of the Jordan River, thus, no place is left for the establishment of the Palestinian government. During the course of the negotiations, Israel insisted on the recognition of the Jewish government by the Palestinian Authority which would have serious consequences. In addition, in exchange for the concessions given by the Palestinians, Israel will not withdraw from the occupied territories. Its only concession is the freedom of a few hundred Palestinian prisoners. Israel’s demand for recognition is impossible because that would mean the displacement of one and a half million Palestinians who reside in the Jalil region in the north part of Occupied Palestine and also ignoring their right to return to their land. The Palestinian Authority will, under no condition, accept this issue. Israel will not give anything to them except the freedom of a few hundred prisoners out of thousands. As long as the Palestinians do not accept Israel’s demand, Israel will not free the Palestinian prisoners. It is obvious that the freedom of several Palestinians would not be of much value for the Palestinians. Therefore, negotiations failed and the US was not able to exert pressure on Netanyahu. These negotiations were doomed to fail and John Kerry’s plan failed.
It is said that the US administration is not capable of exerting the necessary pressure on Israel for it will then be faced with the attacks of the Zionist lobbies and the possibility of losing its supporting investors will increase. How significant is this assumption in impacting the failure of these negotiations?
This is true. When the US proposes the idea of two states, it must know that the Palestinian state needs land. This is while there is no such land unless Israel withdraws from the 1967 occupied territories. Israel opposes this issue and the strong Israeli lobbies in the US will not allow the US administration to exert pressure for its withdrawal. The government of Netanyahu does not accept its withdrawal from the West Bank of the Jordan River, particularly with regard to eastern Jerusalem which is part of the occupied territories and the Israelis are not ready to negotiate about it. This is while Palestine emphasizes that eastern Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state. Therefore, even the extent of the pressure which the US could exert on Israel would not be at the level to force Israel to withdraw. This is an issue that perhaps John Kerry was not aware of.
The US administration had made efforts to succeed in the peace process before as well. Obama dispatched George Mitchell, who was a skilled diplomat, as his envoy in the region but, despite his experience in resolving the crisis in Ireland, he did not succeed on this mission. He took advantage of his reputation but to no avail. On one hand, in the present power balance, Israel is not ready to back down, because the Arab world is in chaos and is confronted with domestic conflicts and they do not pursue the issue of Palestine. The two important countries of the Arab world which usually exert pressure on Israel, i.e. Syria and Egypt, are now faced with internal problems. The other country, Saudi Arabia, not only does not attempt to exert pressure but cooperates with Israel to overthrow the government of Bashar Assad as well. Under such regional conditions, Israel is not pressured by the Arab-Islamic region. That is why negotiations do not succeed. On the other hand, Israel does not give any concessions for free, thus, now that all of these countries are faced with their own domestic problems, no country is interested in the issue of Palestine and it is not logical that Israel would withdraw from the occupied territories and give such a concession to the Palestinian Authority.
One of the measures which the Obama administration, particularly the Democrats, attempted to use as their winning card was the Middle East peace process which they intended to complete during Obama’s presidency. But considering the events that have taken place and the fact that it is said that they knew that these negotiations would fail but they just intended to bring them to the negotiating table, wasn’t this a risk for the Democrats in the presidential election to be regarded as a weak point in their foreign policy?
Of course the Obama administration intends to succeed in the Middle East so that the Democratic party could use it in the future as an achievement. But this achievement could not be with regard to the issue of Palestine. It seems that the US withdrawal from Iraq and now Afghanistan are the cards which the Democrats could use in the future elections. Perhaps they intended to use the Middle East card but were not aware of its complexities. Nevertheless, the Palestinian card is not the card which could be used in the future election.
So, does this mean an end to the Middle East peace process?
Right now, Benjamin Netanyahu has banned any negotiation with the Palestinians. There was even harsh language used in the last negotiations between Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former Foreign Minister, and Saeb Erekat from Palestine and today the Netanyahu administration has also stopped the liberation of prisoners. Therefore, no negotiation is expected to be held between the two sides and this process has now been suspended.