Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Kerry to Netanyahu: The Israeli-Palestinian peace process

John Kerry revived Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in July 2013 after three years, but he was unable to reconcile the two sides.

In the coming weeks, Kerry must submit his proposals for peace, to the deep concern of the Israeli right. "If he wants an agreement that is not immediately torpedoed by his critics, Netanyahu must go along the fringe of religious Zionists," says Ofer Zalzberg. At this price only, he may marginalize the most radical settlers, and thus reduce their nuisance power. "I would have liked John Kerry to explain to Mahmoud Abbas what could well happen if he continues to refuse to make peace," added Mr. Erdan on public radio. Naftali Bennett rejects the two-State solution, but promises that he will comply with the decision of the Israeli people if this is expressed in a referendum. His ally Uri Ariel, Minister of housing, spares no efforts to accelerate the colonisation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with the obvious hope of torpedoing negotiations.

At a conference on security Saturday in Munich, Mr. Kerry spoke of the risks of a boycott to Israel if his efforts to achieve a peace agreement were not successful. He is again the target of Israeli officials and had to face their anger: "It is a pity to see that the American administration does not understand the reality in the Middle East and is putting pressure on the wrong side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," observed passive Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, a close associate of the head of Government Benjamin Netanyahu . Mr Netanyahu has stressed that the "attempts to boycott the State of Israel are "immoral and unjustified" and that they would not achieve their objectives."

The international boycott of the settlement movement is growing in importance and impact, as evidenced by the decision Thursday by the American star Scarlett Johansson to renounce his role as Ambassador of the NGO Oxfam, which he deemed "incompatible" with its promotion of the Israeli company SodaStream, established in the occupied Palestinian territory. 
In mid-January, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had accused the US Secretary of State of being "animated by an incomprehensible obsession and a sort of Messianism" and said that he could not "teach him anything on the conflict with the Palestinians". These statements had so shocked the United States that Moshé Yaalon had to apologize, without however going back on the substance of his remarks.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party Yesh Atid, called Monday on the USA to "lower the tone of its remarks".He added that "Warning against boycott threats can multiply those threats,” and that “John Kerry did that evoke a reality, while his Ministry is fighting against these threats", stressed Mr. Lapid. He seems to be finding it easier to make personal attacks against Mr Kerry than to deal with the issue at hand.

Pressure on Israel increased also on the Palestinian side 
Mahmoud Abbas suggested, in an interview published Monday by the New York Times, that a NATO force led by the United States could conduct patrols in the future Palestinian State. This device would include troops positioned in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and all border crossing points. President Abbas has also suggested that soldiers and Israeli settlers could remain in the West Bank for a period of five years after the conclusion of an agreement, and not three as he proposed earlier. 

Islamic Jihad, whose armed wing has thousands of fighters, promises to oppose with all its strength an eventual agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. "We are totally hostile to these negotiations, which cannot bring anything good," said ­Ahmed al-Mudallal, senior official of the organization. “As we have in the past fought the Oslo process, we will destroy any agreement that would legitimize the Zionist occupation of Palestine. We will not compromise as our reason for being is the liberation of our land, our people and our holy places." 

Created by the late 1970s, this radical organization named on the list of terrorist groups by the United States and the European Union is working with Hamas in several areas. From the 1990s, the Organization has led dozens of attacks including several suicide bombings, in the Palestinian territories and in Israel.

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