Israel could have refused the prisoner release. The result would have been endless discussions in which Kerry tries to get them to reverse. Who knows what assurances or “gestures” it might have been able to get. But it choose to say yes. Now it has one more chance to avoid the concessions and demands and that is to hold firmly to its own demands and to demand all of Area C. Time to be more assertive and play offense. Israel must set the agenda. Ted Belman
Like the dog that finally caught the bus he chased, Secretary of State John Kerry now has to figure out what to do with what he’s got. He induced, bribed, cajoled, and threatened Israelis and Palestinians to return to the “negotiating table.” The Palestinians were promised up to $4 billion in “investment” and aid, and up to 104 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel from the pre-Oslo era; terrorists with blood on their hands and previously thought to be unreleasable.
What the Palestinians paid, if anything, is unclear, but they are trumpeting a victory — that Israel will release prisoners and that the prisoners cannot be banished to Gaza; that Israel will not be able to seek an interim agreement, but must to go “final status” issues; and that Kerry agreed with them that the 1949 lines (the so-called 1967 border) are the starting point. Almost as a throwaway line, Mahmoud Abbas said he was committed to a “two state solution” and Kerry has referred vaguely to the promise that that Arab States might make peace with Israel if the Palestinians were satisfied (more on that later).
So, Mr. Kerry has put his bribe on the table and Israel has paid in advance.
The core question arises, what will they negotiate? It will not be “peace,” which is not a negotiable property. Machiavelli called peace, “the condition imposed by the winner on the loser of the last war.” It can be a “cold peace,” a “warm peace,” or the “peace of the dead.” The “peace” of Versailles contained the seeds of WWII; the “peace” following WWII contained the seeds of a democratic Germany and Japan, but consigned millions to almost a half-century of Soviet-dominated communism. Peace emerges, if at all, only after the resolution of competing claims, whether through negotiation or war. WWII ended when the allies were in Berlin and Hitler was dead in the bunker; the Cold War ended when the Soviet satellites were freed from Moscow’s grip and communism died.
What are the competing claims between Israel and the Palestinians, and can they resolved such that a peace of some sort can emerge? In barest form, Israel’s essential requirements are:
- Recognition of the State of Israel as a permanent, legitimate part of the region; the “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” that is the promise of UN Resolution 242.