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‘J Street’ says skepticism toward Kerry’s efforts fuels Third Intifada and Palestinians taking Israel to the Hague

Israel/Palestine
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Yesterday Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of the liberal Zionist organization J Street, posted an anguished appeal to his own friends, deploring their skepticism of John Kerry’s peacemaking efforts. Ben-Ami warns that this skepticism is fostering “chaos and violence” and a possible third intifada on the West Bank.

Lashing out at folks on his own side who disbelieve Kerry, Ben-Ami said that the “negativity” could lead to a downfall of the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to maintain order in the occupation and: “Palestinians headed to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies, seeking recognition of their rights and international action against Israel.”

I republish most of Ben-Ami’s note below. I’d note that Nahum Barnea at Ynet expressed a very similar concerns about the stalemate leading Palestinians to go the International Criminal Court:

Negotiations are indispensable for Israel…

Israel must do something dramatic: Either announce that it is freezing construction, or announce a massive release of prisoners, or open Area C for Palestinian construction, or all of the above. If the talks are not resumed, the Palestinians will go to the UN institutions in the fall, and the boycott movement will grow wings.

Now here is Jeremy Ben-Ami’s “Scourge of Skepticism” post:

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts aimed at jumpstarting diplomacy to reach a two-state solution are running into a buzzsaw of negativity. 

I’m not surprised when the negativity comes from opponents of a two-state solution.  They don’t see ending the conflict as either an existential necessity for Israel or an American national interest.

But when the intense negativity and cynicism comes from those who purport to share the Secretary’s end goal, it irks me.

Recently, pundits and analysts seem to be falling over themselves to find new ways to demean the Secretary’s efforts.  Tilting at windmills, they say.  Naïve, they call him.  Misguided…  and worse.

These so-called “experts” claim the chances of success are so low the Secretary shouldn’t bother trying.  The timing isn’t right.  The leaders aren’t ready.  The Secretary should focus on Asia or engage more on Syria and Egypt.

Well, allow me to say that I’ve had enough of the skeptics and critics – particularly those who claim – even as they criticize the Secretary for his efforts – to recognize the importance of reaching peace and a two-state solution.

What messages are the skeptics conveying?  That when something is hard, you shouldn’t try?  That it’s only worth taking on the easy and painless tasks of foreign policy, or those where success is guaranteed?

What do the naysayers have to say about the likely costs of inaction?

Imagine if the Secretary were to simply walk away, and the Palestinians headed to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies, seeking recognition of their rights and international action against Israel. 

What then? Congress has threatened to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority (and maybe to the UN bodies who accept them), the Israelis could be expected to launch a new wave of settlement construction (E-1, anyone?), and Palestinian tax revenue could again be withheld.

With the Palestinian Authority already struggling to make ends meet, what happens when it can’t? Do the Israeli Defense Forces re-enter West Bank cities?  If the PA stopped collecting garbage, does Israel resume full responsibility for West Bank services?

Through all of this, tension would rise, demonstrations might break out and we could be on the road to a third intifada.

What would these same pundits say if the West Bank descends into chaos and violence?  No doubt they would criticize the Obama administration and Secretary Kerry for their failure to engage and their hands-off approach.

Sure, let’s agree that the odds of success for the Secretary’s efforts are long.  If solving the conflict were easy, it would have been done long ago.

And I can relate to the frustrations of friends and colleagues who have worked for decades to end this conflict and are devastated that it continues to fester despite their hard work.

Setting expectations low for success makes sense and perhaps even minimizes some of the risks of failure.

But from those who seem to be saying it’s not even worth trying – much less trying hard – I want to know what they would have said to those who tackle the great challenges of human history?  That it’s not worth trying to invent a way to fly? There’s no way to find a cure for cancer?  We can’t possibly stop global warming so why try?

What would they have said to the Martin Luther Kings, to the Nelson Mandelas, to the Gandhis?  Don’t bother; the forces you’re up against are too powerful? Don’t waste your time?

The atmosphere around the Secretary’s efforts impacts its chances of success.

And I’m beginning to think one of the greatest obstacles he faces may not be the minority that opposes his work, but rather the scourge of skepticism running through those who support it.

What we need from those who recognize the importance of the Secretary’s work isn’t a recounting of the reasons why this may not work but their help in building momentum and pressing the leaders on all sides to make it a success.

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27 Responses

  1. Justpassingby
    Justpassingby
    July 5, 2013, 12:15 pm

    US that fight all over the world, making cocky statements but they cant even get this regime to follow international law… Israel obviously have more power than then the US.
    I bet Kerry even polish the shoes for Netanyahu.

    • July 6, 2013, 8:38 am

      J Street is merely controlled opposition.

      No sign of J Street or anything like it before M&W’s book on the Israel Lobby came out

      • Rusty Pipes
        Rusty Pipes
        July 8, 2013, 1:28 pm

        Actually, the real sea change started after the publication of M&W’s article in the LRB in the Spring of 2006. Prior to that, whenever AIPAC was criticized on one of the major progressive blogs (I was active on the orange one, but the pattern applied to other fora as well), a hasbarist would inevitably argue that AIPAC spoke for all American Jews because all major Jewish organizations across the spectrum were represented on its board. Sometimes the hasbarist would claim to be a member of Americans for Peace Now, often the hasbarist would try to shut the discussion down or label the AIPAC critic an anti-Semite and then try to get him or her banned.

        M&W’s article and the responses to it changed that dynamic. Specifically, among the few constructive critiques of M&W’s article was an article in the NYRB, in which Michael Massing wrote about the power dynamics within AIPAC’s structure — that even though all of the major Jewish organizations were on AIPAC’s advisory board, the real power and policy making came from its group of top donors, “the minyan circle.” The minyan circle was dominated by four hardline conservative donors who set the direction of AIPAC’s policy.

        Hasbarists had a hard time claiming that AIPAC represented all American Jews after that. Especially after Israel’s assault on Lebanese hezbollah in Christian Beirut neighborhoods and pinpoint targeting of terrorist cardboard factories, milk factories and Arab book publishers, in the summer of 2006, and Congress’ overwhelming support (400+) of Israel’s actions, online criticism of AIPAC began to grow. More and more of the progressive Jewish commentators who claimed that they supported Peace Now were saying that they needed a lobbying group to represent their views, not AIPAC’s. When J Street announced its formation, initially, there was excitement among the netroots.

        At this point, the parameters of acceptable criticism have shifted. Although criticizing AIPAC is now almost as acceptable as criticizing Christian Zionists (crazy Republicans!) on progressive blogs, most of the hasbarist enforcers claim to support J Street. J Street has been embraced by the netroots so much that they host receptions at the annual Netroots Nation.

  2. Krauss
    Krauss
    July 5, 2013, 12:21 pm

    AIPAC Lite is concern-trolling about the concerns.

    I used to respect Ben-Ami, simply because he stood up to a shitstorm of hate when J Street was formed and persevered.

    I no longer respect Ben-Ami because he wants to ethnically cleanse the Israel/Palestine conversation so only Jews can participate inside the Jewish community. You can’t make peace unless you talk to the other side. But he isn’t interested in Palestinians, they are merely objects from afar to be gawked at and occassionally dismissed and denounced.

    He reminds me a lot about Leonard Fein of Peace Now.
    Same concerntrolling but when the chips are down, his Zionist sympathies override his pretense of liberal values.

    Let them cry their crocodile tears.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      July 5, 2013, 1:57 pm

      Holding operations such as peace now and JS assume the situation is stable. It is not. Judaism is walking slowly into a massive crisis.

  3. Tzombo
    Tzombo
    July 5, 2013, 12:58 pm

    “Negotiations are indispensable for Israel…”

    Oh? If that’s true, you’d think they might have bothered to actually negotiate instead of stalling.

  4. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw
    July 5, 2013, 1:01 pm

    Abbas should head to the UN in September and apply [finances permitting] for all the UN agencies and formally apply to join the ICC. This should be done quite apart from any negotiations which may or may not take place between now and September. Because the aim of the negotiations [at least from the Palestinians point of view] is two states for two peoples, then membership of all the agencies and the ICC is the logical prerogative of the Palestinian state at the end of such negotiation, the Israel/US position would be to stop the Palestinians from exercising their undoubted rights [now what would they want to do that for?] Abbas seems to be pleased with the progress Kerry is making and is hopeful a formula can be reached. Kerry floated a compromise in which Israel would freeze settlement construction outside of major “blocks” that Israel expects to keep. here.. http://news.yahoo.com/palestinians-kerry-close-restarting-talks-132644576.html It is to be hoped Abbas sees through all these machinations, they may sweeten any pill [a cyanide capsule] with prisoner release and financial bribery or financial threats, will Abbas hold his nerve?

  5. rensanceman
    rensanceman
    July 5, 2013, 1:29 pm

    “….and the Palestinians headed to the ICC and other international bodies seeking recognition of their rights and international action against Israel. ”
    This seems to be his main worry–that Zionist Israel will be exposed as the vile, evil little criminal state that it is, rather than shining the spotlight on Netanyahu and friends who have no desire to negotiate anything other than to evict all Palestinians so that all of Eretz Israel is firmly under Israeli control. “Negotiations” for Israel is only a ploy used to placate those who charge it with lack of sincerity in dealing with the Palestinians.
    Ben-ami’s 2state “solution” is inimical to the Palestinians’ interest and unrealistic as well. One state will be the ultimate solution.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      July 5, 2013, 4:33 pm

      Look, if your huge, body-building spouse has been abusing you for the last 30 years, the only thing you can do is move out and get a court order for a PFA.

      The abusive husband’s brother comes in and says: “Don’t get a PFA from the ICC, you can work it out yourselves”. So you try working it out for 5 years and he keeps abusing you. In fact, it gets worse, and you have scars all over your back and lose 30 pounds. Then the brother demands the same thing.

      Are you going to listen to that?

  6. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    July 5, 2013, 1:46 pm

    Obama has tried for 5 years to bring the sides together and make a peace agreement. What has been the practical result? The multiplication of Israeli settlements across the Palestinian territories and Obama’s pledge to increase Israeli military aid by 30%.

    What is Obama going to do differently now?

    Kerry is a soft mediator, which works when two sides positions can be met someplace. Israelis would rather expand settlements than have a Palestinian state. And Palestinians would rather be dispossessed without their agreement rather than with it. Meanwhile Net. says America is easily moved and gets a resolution passed over the voting rules at the DNC.

    Based on his many years of experience on this issue Ben Ami is aware that Kerry’s mediation will fail. If the American Indians were more optimistic about the American government’s ability to coexist with them, would it have helped? It’s debateable. The Iroquois’ strength is an explanation for their longevity, as is the fact that at some point they stopped fighting. But a positive attitude about the “process”?

    We already heard from the JStreet-sponsored MK who is happy about elderly Palestinians’ deaths. The only way that Palestinians can put a wrench in the bulldozer driving over them is by doing things like going to the ICC. When he was at his most pro-Zionist, Trotsky said the conflict would have to be resolved by an international tribunal. That’s what the UN and its bodies are there for- to make a just resolution of conflicts.

    Finally, isn’t Ben Ami mischaracterizing the criticisms when he writes:

    These so-called “experts” claim the chances of success are so low the Secretary shouldn’t bother trying. The timing isn’t right. The leaders aren’t ready. The Secretary should focus on Asia or engage more on Syria and Egypt.

    What I heard from friends is that they think Kerry should do something, but he is not actually doing anything material to persuade the party in control of the situation to make peace., and this is why it will fail. They think that Kerry’s “Economic peace” does not work for people living in Bantustans, and why should a “peace process” meaning giving up their ability to protect their human rights before international bodies?

    That being the case, why doesn’t Ben Ami want skepticism about a “process” that has failed for the last 5 years, and why doesn’t he want international bodies to give a just resolution to the conflict?

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      July 5, 2013, 2:02 pm

      Here’s the answer:

      What would these same pundits say if the West Bank descends into chaos and violence? No doubt they would criticize the Obama administration and Secretary Kerry for their failure to engage and their hands-off approach.
      Their longstanding hands off approach to massive dispossession has always failed.

      What would they have said to the Martin Luther Kings, to the Nelson Mandelas, to the Gandhis? Don’t bother; the forces you’re up against are too powerful? Don’t waste your time?

      Kerry is not Nelson Mandela. Mandela opposed dispossession in the Palestinian territories. Kerry is the soft, “neutral”, mediator and strategic ally of the dispossessing State.

      The atmosphere around the Secretary’s efforts impacts its chances of success.
      They all need a wake up call.

      And I’m beginning to think one of the greatest obstacles he faces may not be the minority that opposes his work, [What work?] but rather the scourge of skepticism running through those who support it.
      So if a kid’s parents are breaking up and the kid wants his parents to stay together, it’s the kid’s fault if he doesn’t believe his parents are going to get back together?

      This is useless unless one wants to do mental gymnastics to keep the mind fresh in the morning. this is the liberal enabling. Obviously if he thought it was bad he would be happy about international bodies stepping in. If two people have a dispute and one person is abusing the other physically, shouldn’t they go to a judge to settle it?

      Isn’t the best explanation that he is both a supporter of the state system and a supporter of peace? He wants the state to have $ and control, and doesn’t want conflict there either?

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes
      July 5, 2013, 3:40 pm

      I assume that those”so-called experts” are Kerry’s right-wing critics, using the old hasbara line: “why are you focusing on Israel when there are so many more important (and more easily solvable) crises in the world?”

  7. American
    American
    July 5, 2013, 2:12 pm

    ‘Well, allow me to say that I’ve had enough of the skeptics and critics – particularly those who claim – even as they criticize the Secretary for his efforts – to recognize the importance of reaching peace and a two-state solution.’….lib zio mouthpiece

    Allow us to say, please, that the world recognizes the futility of negotiating with Israel and recognizes that your number one 2 States concern is not based on peace or justice but on ‘retaining’ a Jewish ruled State.

    What you are really afraid of in the increasing demand for One State ….is that it shows the once taken for granted commitment of many people to maintaining an exclusively Jewish state is disappearing.

    Your cause is being replaced by another and you’ve done it to yourselves.

  8. gingershot
    gingershot
    July 5, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Steve Walt tweets ”Kerry sees progress in efforts to revive ME peace talks. Also sees leprechaun, hobbit and a big pink unicorn.”

    hahaha! Luv ya, Steve!

    Abbas needs to immediately drag Israel to the ICC and get cases underway – anything else is essentially his usual slow roll treason of the Palestinians

  9. just
    just
    July 5, 2013, 2:37 pm

    “Israel must do something dramatic: Either announce that it is freezing construction, or announce a massive release of prisoners, or open Area C for Palestinian construction, or all of the above. If the talks are not resumed, the Palestinians will go to the UN institutions in the fall, and the boycott movement will grow wings.”

    and

    “Imagine if the Secretary were to simply walk away, and the Palestinians headed to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies, seeking recognition of their rights and international action against Israel. ”

    Seems that they are truly frightened about the Palestinians going to the ICC, etc.

    Oh well, too bad. They can panic now, they’ve done nothing to start their own peace talks or even halt the theft of land. They are sorta, kinda championing the US SOS’s efforts, though. Why now? Fear that the Palestinians will actually be triumphant in their quest?

    • ritzl
      ritzl
      July 5, 2013, 4:52 pm

      @just Why now? Fear that the Palestinians will actually be triumphant in their quest?

      I think it’s fear that the Palestinians won’t save them from themselves. Israel and its supporters just keep taking, taking, taking; the result of which is 1S1P1V. They can’t live with that but are powerless to stop it at this point, unless the Palestinian ptb “get serious” about two states. Then again, if the Palestinians start acting like a state they get shot down at every turn by the US and Israel.

      Israel and its supporters really don’t know what they want other than no Palestinians living next door (macro and micro). That’s no basis for policy or energizing their movement beyond that narrow soda-straw view of what’s important (to them). Hence all this nonsensical mumbling about this that and the other.

      It boils down to, “If the Palestinians want it, it must be bad for us! Must not allow…” It’s nuts.

  10. just
    just
    July 5, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Actually, this is quite positive. They are afraid of BDS and the rest of the world via the UN/ICC.

    Because most of the world is with the Palestinian people. Most of the world recognizes the injustices/abuses/Occupation/apartheid and theft. Most of the world can clearly see the US and Israel for who we really are.

    1S1P1V! Quit moaning and groaning and do SOMETHING correct for once, Israel. From the news I’ve read here today alone, you are still dancing your way on your apartheid, cruel, and dark path of gross injustice.

  11. Citizen
    Citizen
    July 5, 2013, 4:11 pm

    In essence, Israel has relentlessly kept putting “facts on the ground” through thick (during peace negotiations) and thin (in lapses of negotiations). Their strategy was either they’d eventually have Greater Israeli, or they had lots of bargaining chips to assure all the key settlements they felt they needed they’d get to keep. I don’t think, until the last few years, the Israeli leaders ever gave serious thought to a 1S1v arrival. I conclude that #BDS & the Palestinian attainment of some semi-state rights, e.g. to pursue Israel in the ICC, has got Israel very scared. It’s hard not to notice the more recent times the whole UN backed the Palestinians, except for the US & Israel.

  12. Reds
    Reds
    July 5, 2013, 4:14 pm

    “Martin Luther Kings, to the Nelson Mandelas, to the Gandhis?”

    Nelson Mandela has made his views known in his letter to Thomas Friedman

    It’s hard for me to think that MLK would support the current state of Israel espically the Likud’s government against africans immigrants and non-jews and espically it’s “Jew Only” settlements.

    As for Gandi Israel pratices a eye for a 100 eyes policy

  13. Reds
    Reds
    July 5, 2013, 4:18 pm

    “And I’m beginning to think one of the greatest obstacles he faces may not be the minority that opposes his work, but rather the scourge of skepticism running through those who support it.”

    Because we all know the U.S. is a honest broker right? Not like Likud or their allies don’t flatly reject a Palestinian state or anything? And of course Kerry and the State Department will have consequence for the Likud Government if it doesn’t stop illegally building settlements?

  14. Justpassingby
    Justpassingby
    July 5, 2013, 4:59 pm

    I like how some people here think Abbas is actually going to the International court. Quite naive.

    • JennieS
      JennieS
      July 6, 2013, 9:26 pm

      I like how many people seem to think that the ICC is actually able to solve the problem. The ICC can investigate and issue indictments but lacks any ability to arrest the indictees. There is a ICC warrant for the arrest of Sudanese president Al Bashier but he managed to attend a conference in ICC member state Chad earlier this year and return home unmolested.
      If Palestine did join the ICC and get indictments against some powerful Israelis it would be somewhat embarrassing to Israel and its supporters but no more than that, and it seems that Israel, the US and their hangers-on are not easily embarrassed.

  15. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw
    July 5, 2013, 6:16 pm

    All this talk about taking politicians to the Hague, should look at the British governments latest piece of hypocrisy, General Benny Gatz Chief of staff of the IDF and former Major General Doron Almog have been given special mission status to come to the UK, this will shield them from possible war crimes charges under universal jurisdiction, disgraceful see here http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9650:suspected-war-criminal-lt-general-gantz-offered-special-mission-immunity-before-visit-to-the-uk&catid=145:in-focus and here http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/July_2013/02-07-13/6.FCO-AnnualUpdatetoParliamentonUKSupportandFundingforInternationalJustice%282%29.pdf

  16. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    July 5, 2013, 11:37 pm

    So, just to recap, the way out of the situation, in the model of Gandhi as mentioned above is a mass nonviolent movement, a peaceful third Intifada. Another way out is for international bodies to intervene and enact justice. Skepticism over Kerry’s laissez faire mediation fuels both of those responses. Consequently, the best things to do is to fuel skepticism over Kerry’s efforts for his failure to put anything real behind his soft mediation, which puts a fig leaf of approval over the dispossession as if “Yes, there’s problems, but they are working them out with the peace ‘process’.”

    The biggest downside is that the current level of skepticism merely “irks” B.A., rather than him having to deal with it as a real issue. Thus this dissident skepticism due to the controlling power’s overwhelming superiority must be multiplied for it to be noticeable.

  17. iResistDe4iAm
    iResistDe4iAm
    July 7, 2013, 8:02 am

    Justice Except for Palestine

    “Imagine … the Palestinians headed to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies, seeking recognition of their rights and international action against Israel.”

    If Israeli actions against Palestinians were justified as the apologists always claim, then why would “seeking recognition of their rights” lead to “international action against Israel”?

    “What then? Congress has threatened to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority (and maybe to the UN bodies who accept them), the Israelis could be expected to launch a new wave of settlement construction (E-1, anyone?), and Palestinian tax revenue could again be withheld. […]
    If the PA stopped collecting garbage, does Israel resume full responsibility for West Bank services?”

    What then? Extortion by the US and extortion by Israel, and yet more Israeli victimhood.

    The Justice Except for Palestine brigade (aka liberal Zionists) are desperately clinging to the hope that a Palestinian leader (any leader, but Abbas is their last hope) would eventually succumb to Israeli/US extortion and negotiate Palestinian rights away. Not likely, as Nelson Mandela said, “only free men can negotiate”.

  18. eGuard
    eGuard
    July 7, 2013, 8:26 am

    Jeremy, the critics you listen to would not mind violence in the West Bank, as they were indifferent about the attacks on Gaza before.

    The critics I hear do not say “the Secretary were to simply walk away”. They say: Kerry, do something else.

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