Kerry’s plan: Palestinians to be cast as fall guys – again

Under heavy pressure from the US, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has paid grudging lip service over the past four years to the goal of Palestinian statehood. But his real agenda was always transparent: not statehood, but what he termed “economic peace”.

Ordinary Palestinians, in Netanyahu’s view, can be pacified with crumbs from the master’s table: fewer checkpoints, extra jobs and trading opportunities, and a gradual, if limited, improvement in living standards. All of this buys time for Israel to expand the settlements, cementing its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

After 20 years of pursuing Palestinian statehood implied in the Oslo Accords, the US indicated last week it was switching horses. It appears to be adopting Netanyahu’s model of “economic peace”.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, flanked by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, revealed an economic programme for getting peace talks on track.

Some 300 Israeli and Palestinian business people were on board, he said, and would invest heavily in the Palestinian economy in a venture that was “bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything since the Oslo accords”.

No more details were forthcoming, except that it will be overseen by Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister who has been the Quartet representative, the international community’s “man in Jerusalem”, since 2007.

He is a strange choice indeed, given that the Palestinian leadership has publicly dismissed him as “Israel’s defence attorney” and privately argued — as revealed in the Palestine Papers leaked in 2011 — that he advocates “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”.

Kerry’s claims for his programme were grand yet vague. Some $4 billion in private investment over three years would boost the Palestinian economy by 50 per cent; agricultural production and tourism would triple; unemployment fall by two-thirds; wages rise by 40 per cent; and 100,000 homes would be built.

But the proposal left few impressed, and for good reason.

Kerry is simply repackaging the task Blair was entrusted with six years ago. His job has been to develop the Palestinian economy and build up Palestinian institutions in preparation for eventual statehood, so far to little effect.

As David Horovitz, editor of the right wing Times of Israel newspaper, scoffed: “If there was $4 billion to be had in private investment in the Palestinian economy, you can rest assured that Tony Blair would have found it.”

Or seen another way, the Palestinian economy’s problem is not a lack of investment; it is a lack of viable opportunities for investment. Palestinians have no control over their borders, airspace, radio frequencies, water and other natural resources, not even over the currency or internal movement of goods and people. Everything depends on Israel’s good will. And few investors will be prepared to bet on that. Israel has repeatedly shown itself more than ready to crush the PA’s finances by, for example, withholding Palestinian tax revenues it collects and is mandated to pass on.

Blair’s role has been heavily criticised because his narrow focus on economic development has not only failed to foster a climate conducive to talks but has served as cover for Israel and Washington’s inaction on Palestinian statehood. Instead of rethinking Blair’s failed mandate, Kerry appears set on perpetuating and expanding it.

Abdallah Abdallah, a senior Fatah official, summed up the Palestinian response: “We are not animals that only want food. We are a people struggling for freedom”.

Israel, meanwhile, is only too ready to push Kerry down this hopeless path.

From Israel’s perspective, the US plan usefully distracts attention from the Arab Peace Initiative, the Arab states’ renewed offer last month of full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from most of the occupied territories.

Netanyahu, worried the offer might corner him into serious talks, has responded with stony silence. At the same time, Yair Lapid, the supposedly centrist finance minister who was originally promoted by the West as a peacemaker, has squashed the idea of a deal with the Palestinians as unrealistic. He told the New York Times last month that he supported expanding the settlements.

Israel, it seems, hopes that the Palestinian Authority, now permanently mired in financial crisis, can be arm-twisted with promises of billions of dollars in sweeteners. According to Palestinian sources, Abbas is facing intense pressure from the US, with the Kerry plan intended to leverage him into dropping his condition that Israel freeze settlement growth before negotiations restart.

Israel is keen to win that concession. Despite reports that Netanyahu has quietly promised the Americans he will avoid embarrassing them for the next few weeks with announcements of settlement building, a rash of projects is in the pipeline.

At the weekend, media reports disclosed a plan for 300 new homes in East Jerusalem, while nearly 800 more are to be released for sale. Several settlement outposts established without authorisation from the Israeli government are expected to be made legal retrospectively, including hundreds of homes in Eli, near Ramallah.

Reuters reported yesterday that Kerry expects a decision on restarting peace talks within two weeks – or, his officials say, he will walk away from the peace process. He told a meeting of the American Jewish Committee the same day: “If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.”

For Netanyahu, such threats are hollow. If the US absents itself from the conflict, Israel will simply be left with a freer hand to intensify its subjugation of the Palestinians and the theft of their land.

Even though much more is at stake for the Palestinians, the PA has so far been quietly dismissive of the Kerry plan. It has stated it will not make “political concessions in exchange for economic benefits” – a diplomatic way of saying it will not be bribed to sell out on statehood.

But the real danger for the Palestinians, as they remember only too well from the 2000 Camp David talks, is that they are being set up as the fall guy. Should they refuse to sign up to the latest version of economic peace, Israel and the US will be only too ready to blame them for their intransigence.

This is win-win for Netanyahu, and another moment of disastrous slippage in the diplomatic process for the Palestinians.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East

{ 25 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. seafoid says:

    The US is not going to get in the way of Israel’s slow suicide
    Bush or Condy would never have said the following back in 2005 :

    link to haaretz.com

    “Kerry warned that without a two-state solution, Israel will have to choose between its Jewish and democratic nature. He also stressed the need to recognize the fundamental aspirations of the Palestinian people.
    Those who believe the Israeli-Palestinian status quo is sustainable and that the separation fence will bring security to Israel are “lulling themselves into a delusion,” the U.S. secretary of state said.
    “The absence of peace is perpetual conflict. … We will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and counter-responses that could literally slam the door on a two-state solution,” he said.
    Kerry also warned that Israel would be isolated in the international arena if the standstill continues. The Palestinians have already begun considering opting for unilateral efforts at the United Nations, and if they do so, they will garner more votes than they did last time, when they sought – and achieved – non-member observer state status, he said. Furthermore, the eruption of a protest movement in the West Bank would result in greater deligitimization of Israel, said Kerry, cautioning against the dire potential of what might happen if the Palestinian Authority were to collapse. “

  2. Blownaway says:

    The difference this time is that the Palestinians have nothing to lose. This will be the end (finally) of the vichy Palestinian government and it will force their hand. They will have to admit defeat resign and hand over the keys to Kerry. It has been said all along that the Obama administration will preside over the death of the so called two state solution. And the unshakable bond will serve to protect the apartheid Kim Crow state. Ironic isn’t it that the first black President will be the Jim Crow enforcer

  3. Citizen says:

    Yeah. The Palestinians will remain on Israel’s specially prepared “diet” for them. Israel would “get rid” of all the natives except for what a bad PR move that would be in the 21st Century. Even the US congress would blink…

  4. frankier says:

    It is time for the Palestinians to realize that there are pretty much no viable alternatives until the US stop providing support to Israel. Violence has not worked; negotiations have not worked. Trying again the same approach with the balance of power unchanged will only generate the same results.

    Maybe it is time for the Palestinians to try another approach: ask Israel what would Israel want the Palestinians to do. No negotiations, just state your “want”. Beyond vague statements, Israel has never stated what is their ideal solution. Let them do that, let us see if they have the courage to state what everyone already knows they want. Israel’s grand project is to weaken and dilute the Palestinians to oblivion . The blueprints are under everyone’s eyes to see: the Native Americans. If the US got away with a project that large, why can’t Israel? Then take their answer and share it with the world.

    As pointed in the article, all the commotion following fatuous plans serves only Israel’s purpose to label the Palestinians as unreasonable.

    • Maybe it is time for the Palestinians to try another approach: ask Israel what would Israel want the Palestinians to do. No negotiations, just state your “want”.

      israel won’t do that. that was the quartets plan and how they convinced abbas to not go to the general assembly in 2010 for the statehood bid and only chose the security council in which they had no chance. (hence a delay for 2 years) so the quartet (tony blair etc) asked both sides to present their proposals as a framework. palestinians did, israel refused. they said they would come up with proposals after a 10 month ‘negotiation’ period, one that would culminate butting right up to the US elections where no US politician would dare call israel out for not coming up with a plan, or if they did come up with one, it would probably be another..5 years down the road leading to twenty etc etc.

      anyway, here’s most of it in a nutshell, Where’s Israel’s proposal?:
      link to mondoweiss.net

      Israel had a fit over what it alleges were European countries’ intrusion into its “domestic affairs.” Stick with me for a minute as I try and lay out what is really going on: diversionary bloviation to protect Israel from its obligations to submit border and security proposals for the 2 state solution.

      • frankier says:

        Annie, thanks for the link. Yes, of course, I am aware of the foot dragging operations by the Israeli government and the spineless posture of the quartet and his so called “leadership”.

        My wish is that the Palestinian leadership would make it a point of asking the Israeli government to state what it wants in clear terms. Do they wish all the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to move to Jordan and Egypt, respectively? Just state it. Do they want to get rid of only Gaza and give the Palestinians in the West Bank a 2nd class residency in an enclave surrounded by Israeli settlements? Just say it. If they don’t, then the P.A. should just stop cooperating per the Oslo accord. Let Israel handle all aspects of security within the West Bank and Gaza. Let Israel commit more war crimes. At some point, maybe, the world will take notice.

        The Israeli are enjoying a relatively good life while the US are paying, at the tune of $3B+/year, the “indianization” of the Palestinians. I can understand why Israel will never state their “wants”. The moment they state them, they would be getting something less, whereas by being ambiguous or quite about that, they might get 100% of what they want. It will just take a little time….

      • Citizen says:

        Yeah, Israel always times their deep crap–didn’t they twice attack Gaza during the US Elections? They knew no American candidate for high office would object.

    • yourstruly says:

      The U.S. got away with genocide so why can’t Israel? Because it’s a century and a half later now, and the world won’t allow it. And yes, no viable alternatives until the U.S. stops supporting Israel. Which brings up the single most important task facing those of us who actively support justice for Palestine, that of putting an end to the U.S.-Israel special relationship (SR), definitely doable if only we would go after the most prominent Israel firsters, (particularly those in Congress), such that, SR + BDS = delegitimization of the Zionist entity.

      • Citizen says:

        “The U.S. got away with genocide so why can’t Israel?”

        In light of Obama’s use of drones, how can his regime criticize Israel for its targeted assassinations?

      • Woody Tanaka says:

        “The U.S. got away with genocide so why can’t Israel?”

        This strain of genocide envy is quite strong is zio quarters. Disgusting.

      • frankier says:

        @yourstruly… I did not say genocide.. I don’t think Israel wants to commit genocide, they just want to the Palestinians to “go away”… Jordan, Egypt, some enclave… wherever… just not in the Palestine Israel wants… and, unfortunately, the world is already allowing it by turning the other way, when not directly aiding and abetting.

        I think that it will take a major event to awaken the conscience of the world, and especially of the US… something like finding evidence and sharing it with the public that Israel is behind some major events that caused the death of many US citizen or widespread financial losses for the US. Absent that, I don’t see things changing any time soon…

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          Sounds like genocide to me. Golda Maier copped to it by claiming the non-existence of the people who she was genociding and whose property she was theiving.

  5. This development project will be overseen by Tony Blair? Tony Blair gave an interview with the Daily Mail in which he said that there is “a problem with Islam.”

    He said , “There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam,” he wrote. “We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.”

    “At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it,” he added.

    Of course the irony is that he joined Bush in invading Iraq and killed tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens, but of course, the problem is Islam. He does not need to be overseeing a development project in the West Bank. At least his inclusion tells us that this project is a joke, a smokescreen, and a cover by the West for Israel, and not to be taken seriously. And of course, the problem is within Islam.

  6. gingershot says:

    5 yrs from NOW, June 2018, Palestine needs to have 5 yrs of ICC rulings against Apartheid Israel under it’s belt

    Any Palestinian leader who did not MAKE SURE this happened was an Israeli Quisling placed to make sure this didn’t happen

  7. just says:

    The Palestinian people are not the Israelis slaves. Enough is enough. I do understand that ardent Israelis are “frightened”, but it is as a result of their governments’ (and our, the USA’s) complicity and hypocrisy. The Palestinians deserve justice, honor, respect and freedom to run into the light of the future– the very same ‘light’ that every human strives for.

    I wish that Kerry’s plan could work a way forward toward peace and justice. I believe that it will not. Blair is the warmongering, status quo, PNAC hegemon poodle extraordinaire. A shady character indeed.

    Thank you, Jonathan.

  8. Castellio says:

    Obama is certainly a well chosen frontman, and I think was identified as such early in his career by pro-Zionist and well-informed Democrats.

  9. NickJOCW says:

    The real issue is whether the future of The Holy Land will be calm and peaceful, or plain bloody; the rest is filling in time, and one can understand why, aside from those ‘shared values’ most of which others would be reluctant to confess to, the US and Israel each burn their candles at both ends:

    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
    It gives a lovely light!

  10. HarryLaw says:

    Excellent review of the present state of affairs Johnathan, you are correct to say the US/Israel are trying to bribe the Palestinians, being the weaker party this is inevitable, Abass is conflicted, being a non confrontational character his instincts are to try and accommodate the US, but he knows the Palestinian rank and file will not allow the peace talks to resume without a complete cessation of settlement building, which incidentally are obligations under the Oslo accords, I would like to see Abass apply for entry into all the UN Agencies and formally apply to join the ICC, and only agree to talks on the condition that all settlement building stop, and also insist the Israelis present a map of the proposed settlement they would be prepared to agree to, it will not happen of course, a political agreement outside the parameters of International law are what the Israelis are after, Abass would be selling the Palestinians down the river if they agree to the Kerry/Blair plan.

  11. ritzl says:

    It’s hard to see the downside of the Palestinians being cast as the “fall guys” at this point. The process has already bottomed out, and will remained bottomed out unless there is some act of extreme and/or precipitous yet enduring good faith on the part of Israel and the US. It’s hard to see that that good faith is even remotely forthcoming, or from where it might come.

    So the Palestinians have the ultimate bargaining chip – Do Nothing. Doing nothing advances their cause either by making Israel/US realize that their worst nightmare is coming to fruition unless they come up with some extreme act of good faith, or it sets the structure for the civil rights/ICC struggle to come in the 1S1P1V scenario (thanks Ramzi Jaber and Hostage…). Either way the Palestinians advance their cause.

    I don’t see casting the Palestinians as the fall guy as anything but a huge and terminal lose-lose for the Israelis. That it could be considered a win-win for them is “old-think” imho. Nobody’s playing that “game” anymore.

    The weird thing to me though, given that these ISR/US people seem to be older that 2 years old (me! me! me!), that they don’t see this trap that they have snared themselves within. Very strange. Very final. A classic case, perhaps soon to be THE textbook classic case, of the inevitable results of believing your own BS.

    Thanks for the article. This and PW’s Kerry speech article today should be taken in tandem as a pretty accurate snapshot of where the “process” is heading.

    • HarryLaw says:

      ritzl @ “So the Palestinians have the ultimate bargaining chip – Do Nothing. Doing nothing advances their cause either by making Israel/US realize that their worst nightmare is coming to fruition unless they come up with some extreme act of good faith, or it sets the structure for the civil rights/ICC struggle to come in the 1S1P1V scenario (thanks Ramzi Jaber and Hostage…). Either way the Palestinians advance their cause.
      I don’t think doing nothing will advance the Palestinian position in any respect, quite the opposite, the Israelis already have facts on the ground to which they are adding more daily, they plan to de facto annex area C, and just like the Golan Heights, administer it as a part of Greater Israel so that in another 45 years Israel will think it preposterous that they should have to give it up, especially since there would be few Palestinians in the area in any case, their line of thought, daft as any normal person would think is, “what have the International community done in the last 45 years with regard to the Golan Heights? NOTHING”, they hope and expect the same with area C, the Palestinians need to go on the legal offensive, apply to all the UN agencies, formally join the ICC and put political pressure on it to open an investigation into the complaints it already has before it, and immediately add the breach of 49.6 Geneva convention and Article 8 2b[v111] ICC statute.The war crime of transferring your own citizens into occupied territory.

      • ritzl says:

        @Harry Law I guess the point of disagreement is that I was non-specific on time frame. My bad. You’re absolutely right that eventually, when the time is right, with international consensus and support, Palestinians will certainly do everything possible to secure their rights.

        It’s just at this moment in time that I disagree, obviously. The two-state negotiating process is a fig leaf for everything you describe. It always has been. If Palestinians participate in that process they give cover and/or legitimacy to the people stealing their existence. Palestinian existence is going to be stolen no matter what the Palestinians do. That’s just the way of it at this point.

        But by doing nothing, at this stage (not forever, but only until the time is right to act with true global consensus), they clarify and spotlight the issues and put the proverbial ball squarely and singularly in the ISR/US court to either stop the ethnic cleansing (two sovereign states offered in good faith), or live with the consequences (1S1P1V). Call it the ultimate form of non-violence.

        There is nothing the Palestinians can do to change what is going to happen in the short term. They can only draw attention to, and hasten the focus and consensus on, what is happening by not participating in a sham process. ISR/US are simply stripped of options in the face of that strategy, naked as the proverbial jaybird.

        I hate writing this stuff because it means pain and sacrifice for Palestinians, MORE pain and sacrifice. But it may mean less pain and sacrifice than providing cover for ongoing Israeli crimes and arriving at this exact same situation/debate ten or twenty years from now.

        The shorter version is that by doing nothing at this point in time, Palestinians begin to drive the terms and urgency of the debate, not ISR/US. The cautions in the Kerry speech showed that this is actually happening in real time. That’s a huge and meaningful shift, imho.

        Peace.

  12. RE: “[I]t will be overseen by Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister who has been the Quartet representative, the international community’s “man in Jerusalem”, since 2007. He is a strange choice indeed, given that the Palestinian leadership has publicly dismissed him as “Israel’s defence attorney” and privately argued — as revealed in the Palestine Papers leaked in 2011 — that he advocates “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”. ~ Jonathan Cook

    MY COMMENT: Tony Toady* Blair is apparently walking in (i.e., following) the footsteps of Winston Churchill**!

    * NOTE: “Toady” is Elmer Fudd’s speech-impaired version of ‘Tony’.
    • Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd battle-cartoon (Un-censored) [VIDEO, 07:08] – link to youtube.com.
    • I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat [VIDEO, 02:56] – link to youtube.com.

    ** REGARDING SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL’S “FOOTSTEPS”:

    What about Gandhi’s nemesis, Winston Churchill? Today we only remember his heroic opposition to Nazism. But while he was against gassing and tyranny in Europe, he was passionately in favour of it for “uncivilised” human beings whose riches he wanted to seize. In the 1920s, Iraqis rose up against British imperial rule, and Churchill as Colonial Secretary thought of a good solution: gas them. He wrote: “I do not understand this squeamishness… I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” It would “spread a lively terror”. He was quite clear about why Britain should do this. He explained: “We have engrossed to ourselves an altogether disproportionate share of the wealth and traffic of the world… mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force.”

    SOURCE – link to commondreams.org

    I do not agree that the dog in a manger [i.e., Palestinians/Arabs - J.L.D.] has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of American or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” ~ Winston Churchill to the Peel Commission in 1937

    SOURCE – link to message.snopes.com

    When Britain lost control of Egypt in 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden said he wanted the nationalist president Gamal Abdel Nasser “destroyed, murdered, I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt.” Those insolent Arabs, Winston Churchill had urged in 1951, should be driven “into the gutter from which they should never have emerged.”

    SOURCE – link to nlpwessex.org

    ● P.S. Churchill’s ancestral home & birthplace - link to en.wikipedia.org

  13. ritzl says:

    Just wanted to also say that no water, no economic development. Period. It’s a direct relationship, as the Israelis have proven. It’s also a less than zero sum situation, as the Israelis have also shown (casus belli wrt Lebanon per Sharon), so there’s no sharing going to happen.

    $4B can’t buy tourism if the people in the shops don’t have the water to make dinner. Industry can’t operate without water. No crop diversity/export yield.

    Even if Kerry was seriously proposing desalination as a solution, that’s more than a 3-year plan, piped through Israeli territory.

    DOA/Fairy tale. Embarrassing for the US, yet again.

  14. just says:

    Wow, you are smart ritzl. I certainly appreciate you and your thoughts.