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Exile and the prophetic: Kerry’s couples therapy is a setup for failure

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Will personal diplomacy do the trick?  Has our Secretary of Pandering become a couples therapist? 

So says Haaretz (link) in their attempt to describe why John Kerry’s latest round in the Middle East is bound to fail.

It seems that everyone in the world knows that John Kerry will fail except him.  Though I admire his tenacity, Kerry’s desire to replace psychological prodding with critical political analysis is worrying.  It’s a recipe for a failure. 

While President Obama is touring Africa and the New York Times discusses how the ailing Nelson Mandela’s influenced him (link) Kerry – along with the President himself – should take a Israel/Palestine play from Mandela’s political playbook:  Take a stand and stick with it through thick and thin.  Be willing to suffer for principles that have political consequences.  Build a future worth bequeathing to our children.

What would that mean for our Secretary of Pandering?  What would it take for John Kerry to become our Secretary of Principle?

To begin with, Kerry should stop treating Israeli and Palestinian leaders as psychological patients.  Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas are seasoned politicians.  For all their limitations, they have navigated the treacherous political waters of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for decades.  They know where the bodies are buried.  They’ve helped bury them. 

Netanyahu and Abbas are survivors.  Neither is going to sign a deal they don’t want to or can’t.  Neither is going to be convinced through enhanced psychological techniques. 

Netanyahu and Abbas know well that Obama’s second-term power dwindles daily and that victory laps in the final years of his Presidency – including his present travels in Africa – will be limited to pomp and ceremony.  Soon there will be new faces to deal with on the Presidential scene.   When Obama and Kerry – and Clinton and everybody else – talk about the Two State window closing, Netanyahu and Abbas are thinking about the Obama Presidency window closing.

The idea of Netanyahu’s change of heart or his fear of a bi-national reality is exaggerated.  His reported signing on to Israel taking 10% of the West Bank with an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley is fantasy on a variety of levels.  In the first case, 10% is much more than the relatively small percentage indicates.  Among other things, it doesn’t deal with East Jerusalem or the various military, security and economic controls Israel would maintain in the West Bank.  Left out of the equation is Gaza.

Such a deal, if signed, would mean a permanent occupation of historic Palestine by Israel.  It isn’t going to happen. 

Netanyahu might negotiate parts of such a deal as a way of stalling for time if he could garner enough political support – which is doubtful.  Abbas, even if he was likewise stalling for time, could never sign it.   Politically it is impossible. 

The Palestinian people are in a quandary of epic proportions. But agreeing to permanent occupation is not in the cards.

No one knows what it would be like for the reality as it is – one state, Israel, controlling Tel Aviv to the Jordan River, with millions of Palestinians stranded in between – to be negotiated, signed, sealed and delivered.  Whenever it has reportedly come close, both sides walked away.  This is the case today, perhaps more than ever.

Whether our psychologically-inclined Secretary of Pandering will spend a few extra days in the Middle East is immaterial.  When he returns home, Kerry needs the therapy he is currently offering to Netanyahu and Abbas.  In the end, though, the psychological couch can only do part of the work.  The other, more important, part is standing for principles that have political consequences. 

Counseling Palestinians to sign on to a permanent Israeli occupation is suicide.  It is psychological – and political – malpractice.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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6 Responses

  1. Hostage
    Hostage on June 28, 2013, 10:29 am

    I think its probably more of a case of Obama and Kerry pinning the tail on Israel’s donkey with a great deal of fanfare. After all, the Palestinians are simply asking Israel to abide by the applicable UN resolutions and the Quartet Road map obligations that have been endorsed by the Security Council regarding construction in the settlements.

    Kerry has established the opening of the next session of the General Assembly as his deadline. The Palestinians have played along, while stating that they will try to join the UN and other organizations, like the ICC at that time.

    It may seem unlikely, but according to the terms of the Road Map, the US is obliged to promote recognition of the State of Palestine and UN membership before the Phase III final status negotiations begin. It would not be in the US interest to beat a dead horse and try to block full UN membership of a UN observer state, much less an ICC member state. It’s role in aiding and abetting apartheid can be called into question, since it has sold arms and crowd control devices to Israel and funded the construction through USAID of a separate network of roads that facilitate the Israeli system of apartheid. At some point, common sense would dictate that the US will recognize the State of Palestine, if for no other reason than to try and conclude a bilateral Article 98 agreement. See The Status of US Bilateral Immunity Agreements

    Blackmail can work both ways.

    • HarryLaw
      HarryLaw on June 28, 2013, 2:21 pm

      The US wishes to be immune from prosecution at the ICC, to this end they have imposed economic penalties on those states which have not signed on to their immunity, it should not be forgotten that the US have promised to send in the marines to rescue any US citizens detained for offences in relation to the ICC, Legal experts furthermore contend that such agreements constitute a breach of international law if signed by ICC States Parties. ICC advocates condemn the U.S. BIAs as an inexcusable attempt to gain impunity from the crimes defined in the Rome Statute of the ICC, namely: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The shining city on a hill, the indispensable nation and the exceptional nation, could not do such things

  2. American
    American on June 28, 2013, 11:07 am

    I reached the limits of patience on this US Israel I/P freak show way back.
    We should have gone Irish on this gangster circus a long time ago.
    Hopey in changey leads to the same graveyard, it just takes longer to get there.

    “The Untouchables”
    ‘If you want to win the gangster war, Irish-American officer Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) explains, you have to fight disproportionately: “You wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue”.

  3. gingershot
    gingershot on June 28, 2013, 1:13 pm

    Israel has put the horns on Kerry – Kerry isn’t the therapist, Kerry is the cuckold

    (‘has put the horns on’ = cuckolded him – he being the only one who ‘doesn’t know’)

  4. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on June 28, 2013, 5:44 pm

    RE: “The idea of Netanyahu’s change of heart or his fear of a bi-national reality is exaggerated. His reported signing on to Israel taking 10% of the West Bank with an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley is fantasy on a variety of levels. . . Netanyahu might negotiate parts of such a deal as a way of stalling for time . . . ~ Marc Ellis

    FROM JOEL KOVEL, 1-20-13:

    . . . As with everyone I know of in official political culture, [Thomas] Friedman [probably like Kerry and Obama – J.L.D.] assumes that Israel is a rational actor on the international stage who will obey the calculus of reward and punishment that regulates the conduct of normal states.
    The presumption is that if you tell it the truth, and even pull back US support, it will get the message, reflect, and change its ways. But Israel is not a normal state, except superficially. It will make adjustments, pulling back here, co-operating there, making nice when necessary, crafting its message using a powerful propaganda apparatus employing the most up-to-date social science. But this is simply tactical and no more predicts or explains the behavior of the Zionist state than an individual sociopath can be explained by the fact that he obeys traffic signals while driving to the scene of his crime. . .

    SOURCE –

    ALSO SEE: “Permanent Temporariness”, by Alastair Crooke, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    [EXCERPTS] . . . It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness. . .
    . . . It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence. . .
    . . . Israel’s vice-premier, Moshe Ya’alon, was candid when asked in an interview this year: ‘Why all these games of make-believe negotiations?’ He replied:

    Because … there are pressures. Peace Now from within, and other elements from without. So you have to manoeuvre … what we have to do is manoeuvre with the American administration and the European establishment, which are nourished by Israeli elements [and] which create the illusion that an agreement can be reached … I say that time works for those who make use of it. The founders of Zionism knew … and we in the government know how to make use of time.

    . . . The demise of the ‘peace process’ has given us a rare moment of clarity: since the release of the Palestine Papers, the fiction underlying it has become clear to everybody. . .

    SOURCE –

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