There are many indications that this nine-month American invention of Israel-Palestinian talks are an evolving failure. But the most overt sign was last week’s snowstorm in Israel and the impact it had on the silly charade of talks currently taking place.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region last Thursday evening, and his motorcade of bulletproof vehicles drove straight to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Arabs are only in this shadow boxing of a negotiation process because the U.S. wrangled a concession from Israel that will ultimately result in the release of 104 convicted terrorist murderers from Israeli jails. So far, 52 of these characters have been released. Abbas and his associates have plainly said that the only reason they are continuing the game is so that the other 52 can gain their freedom.
But that’s not the point. Last Thursday, snow was in the forecast for the Jerusalem area, which includes the current Palestinian ghetto capital of Ramallah. When Kerry arrived at Abbas’ offices, it was already snowing outside, and the forecast called for more. As a result, Mr. Kerry and his entourage only stayed 30 minutes before getting into their vehicles and high-tailing it to the safe, warm, and luxurious confines of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
Kerry and Abbas had plenty to talk about. After all, due to Mr. Abbas’s intransigence and refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, zero progress has been made in five months of back-and-forth talks. So what if the weather was bad—it is Middle Eastern peace that hangs in the balance here and, according to the Obama administration, there are few things in the world as important as these talks between the parties.
A cursory glance online shows that there are no less than 10 hotels in Ramallah, and some of them look fairly nice and suitable for Mr. Kerry and his entourage of diplomats to stay the night to discuss these urgent matters in the same fashion as he does in Jerusalem, sometimes sitting and talking with Prime Minister Netanyahu until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.
The nicest-looking hotel where I believe Mr. Kerry could have stayed is the Royal Court. This is what Bookings.com has to say about this particular venue. “Centrally located in the heart of Ramallah, this hotel is 10 minutes’ walk from the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center. The spacious rooms and suites all have a balcony and a flat-screen TV.
“All of the rooms at the Royal Court Hotel have a private bathroom with bathrobes and free toiletries. A free buffet breakfast is available for guests at the restaurant, which also serves à la carte meals. Room service is also available on request. The Royal Court offers a range of facilities from the 24-hour front desk, including tour booking information, airport shuttles, and car rentals. Free parking is also available.
“Activities in the area include the British Council [editor’s note: for quick escape] and a range of bars and cafés which are all within 10 minutes’ walk of the hotel.
“The Royal Court Hotel is just 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of Ramallah and just under 40 minutes’ drive from Jerusalem.” From the photo, you can see for yourself how nice the place is.
And here’s something else posted on that same travel website: a travel advisory.
“Safety and security concerns from the U.S. State Department:
“The security environment remains complex in Israel and the West Bank, and U.S. citizens need to be aware of the continuing risks of travel to these areas, particularly to areas described in this Travel Warning, where there are heightened tensions and security risks. The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, it cautions them that, with the exception of Jericho and Bethlehem, personal travel to the West Bank by U.S. government employees is prohibited . . .”
This particular warning does not mention Ramallah specifically, but it seems that the warning does apply to that city, so I suppose the regulation that does not allow U.S. government employees to travel to the West Bank only allows Mr. Kerry to be there on official business, and mostly during the day.
Okay, so here’s the point. So long as places like Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank are considered dangerous for U.S. citizens, and our Secretary of State is considered endangered if he spends the night there, I think it is safe to say that those folks are not ready for peace with anyone, least of all Jews.
This, amongst other things, should be the litmus test, not just for the Americans involved in the process, but the Europeans and others as well. Do you think that Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, or the United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, when visiting Mr. Abbas, stay in the Royal Court? You know the answer to that is a resounding no. Even if most of their business is about being in Ramallah to help the poor, victimized-by-their-own-leadership Palestinian people, each night of their visit they are hosted at the King David or the David Citadel Hotel, where there is plenty of upscale shopping at the nearby Mamilla Mall.
I believe that when Mr. Obama feels that it is safe enough for Mr. Kerry to spend a few nights in Ramallah or, perhaps at some later point, in Gaza, where several luxury hotels have been built (even though the people there are purported to be starving), then we will be dealing with a sure sign that an era of genuine peace may have arrived. So long as our secretary of state has to make a beeline out of Ramallah for his safe and secure quarters in Jerusalem, there is no quid pro quo here. We are not dealing with an even playing field by far, and it was way premature to even talk about any kind of realistic or sustainable agreement.
Obama and Kerry never fail to point to the so-called “unshakeable bond” that exists between the U.S. and Israel. Neither can they desist from referring to the unique security dynamic that exists between our two countries, which do indeed have so much in common. This idea of attempting to create some kind of parity between the situation on the Israel side and the conditions that exist on the Arab side so that there seems to be some kind of balance is an indulgence in fantasy that is counterproductive to the process, or whatever it is proper to call that which is currently taking place between the parties.
John Kerry’s safety is no different than that of any Israeli man, woman, or child. I just returned from two weeks in Israel and while in Gush Etzyon (otherwise known as the West Bank) drove up to the entrance of several so-called Palestinian cities. Not only are there several members of the IDF at each entrance to these cities, but visitors are advised by a large, impossible-to-miss red sign that it is not only illegal for Israelis to enter these areas, but that it is dangerous as well.
And what exactly is the nature of that danger? Well, apparently it has been determined and proven that if you are an Israeli or a Jew who steps beyond this warning sign, there is a good chance that someone over there allegedly looking to live side-by-side and in peace with you is going to kill you.
And you don’t have to venture into Palestinian territory to begin feeling that fuzzy feeling about our cousins, who President Obama says want to live free and coexist with us. A simple walk down Gershon Agron Street in the center of Jerusalem is indicative of something going on along these very same lines. Every time we walk by the U.S. Consulate building—the building diagonally across the street from the park behind the Leonardo Plaza Hotel—you get a close look at the well-armed beefy American security detail that guards the sprawling building.
I understand that this is the Middle East, but this is the center of the most upscale area of Jerusalem, barely two blocks from the Prime Minister’s residence. Why can’t this edifice be guarded by U.N. personnel from say, the Philippines or South Africa? Not good enough or safe enough for the American personnel? If that is the determination that has been made by the security experts, then that assessment applies to everyone.
So you know when there will be a breakthrough that heralds an era of peace between Arabs and Jews? No, not when an agreement is forced based on Barack Obama’s crazy fantasy agenda. The necessary breakthrough will be at hand when John Kerry can relax, dine, and sleep at the Royal Court Hotel in Ramallah. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.