Reading the tea leaves on the peace process, the signs are bleak. A news report says that the Israelis are refusing to talk about the borders of a Palestinian state. And US negotiator Martin Indyk struck a desperate tone in a speech last Monday night. He said that the two-state prospect will evaporate in a year, at which time a “dangerous” and “downward” spiral would commence. Therefore it is essential that liberal Zionist American Jews reach out to “your Israeli family” to cut a deal. And he called Obama a “prophet.” That doesn’t sound very good to me.
First the news report. Indyk met Friday with P.A. President Abbas in Ramallah to try and get the talks going.
The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Western diplomatic sources as saying on Tuesday that the peace talks had been halted due to Israel’s “refusal to engage in serious negotiations about borders, focusing instead on security.”
Israel is seeking to transform the peace talks with the Palestinians into periodic meetings between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas, the report said.
The sources claimed that Israel has insisted over the past two months on talking only about security-related issues. “But in the face of Palestinian insistence, some meetings dealt with the border,” the sources said, referring to the secret talks held in Jerusalem and Jericho.
That certainly squares with Netanyahu’s appearance at the U.N. Tuesday, in which he said very little at all about a Palestinian state, and Roger Cohen bashed him for it. Maybe this time Israel is going to take the blame for the failure of negotiations.
Now here is Indyk, the chief US negotiator, speaking to the Israel lobby group J Street last Monday–and seeming to put an onus on the American Jewish community:
If there is one message I want to leave you with tonight, that is: we are looking at a very short time frame. By the time you convene again in Washington next year, the leaders will have had to decide whether they are going to go for a final peace deal or not. So what you do today and tomorrow and in the coming weeks and months is critical, you who want to see, who have dedicated yourselves to the purpose of achieving a lasting peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. The time for acting is now.
I thought this was over the top, and also revealing:
In this sense, President Obama and Secretary Kerry are visionaries, prophets — at a time when many on both sides have come to see the status quo as preferable to the alternative of supporting the wrenching compromises necessary to achieve an historic reconciliation, they both are sounding the tocsin.
Notice the stakes, in Indyk’s view, his repeated references to a dangerous spiral, and his all-but desperate call on the Jewish fan base to cheer for the process and reach out to “your Israeli family”– before Israel has to make a fateful choice between being a democracy and being a Jewish state:
think of the dangerous spiral and potential consequences if we don’t seize this moment. New actions by the Palestinians at the United Nations and Israeli retaliation for doing so could lead to a downward spiral, whose end could be renewed conflict. The continuation of the insidious campaign to delegitimize Israel, what the Secretary of State has said is beyond steroids. [sic] Increased settlement activity that makes a Palestinian state less and less viable is likely to occur. And eventually a fateful choice for Israel will have to be made, between a Jewish State and a democratic state.
To avoid these kinds of outcomes – that are all too real and palpable – we need you. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas cannot walk this very difficult road, climb this very steep and high mountain by themselves. …
America’s Jewish community and organizations such as J-Street have a vital role to play. Now is the time to stand up and tell your elected leaders that peacemaking has your support. That peace is vital both for America’s interest and for Israel’s security.
Now is the time to go back to your communities and engage the skeptics and those who have been disheartened by so many of the failures of the past. To tell them that peace is possible, that it is not a mirage, that this does not need to end badly. Tell them the peacemakers need their help. Israel needs their help. That if you just sit on the sidelines and lament the world that is, rather than work for the world that can be, we will never achieve peace.
Now is the time to send a message to your Israeli family and your Palestinian friends, colleagues, to reach out to them with a message that you support them and ask them why are they sitting on the sidelines, when their future is so much at stake. Tell them that you believe peace is possible and that they need to believe it too and they too need to work to achieve it.
Also I noticed that Indyk twice described Israel as “the Jewish state of Israel,” as in, “Prime Minister Netanyahu has… reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state, living alongside the Jewish state of Israel.” Maybe he’s throwing that bone to Netanyahu to try and keep him talking. Though describing Obama as a prophet? Isn’t that the tocsin of doom?
I’d point out that Indyk’s urging at J Street is utterly consistent with what Josh Nathan-Kazis reports at the Forward, speaking of the failure of the sclerotic Jewish organizational leadership:
When Secretary of State John Kerry asked American Jews to help push the Israelis to agree to enter negotiations with the Palestinians last June, American Jewish leaders balked.
Only a handful of left-wing groups advocated on Kerry’s behalf. The rest demurred, telling the Forward that it wasn’t the Israelis who needed to be pushed to the table, and that the onus lies entirely on the Palestinians.
American Jews don’t seem to share that view.
It is now liberal conventional wisdom to blame the lobby for being out of step. Is it possible that the lobby will take the fall for the breakdown of talks? And that Kerry and Indyk will lash out at it?