Today the Yesha Council, which is the regional representative of the West Bank settlements, and other right wing organizations, opened an aggressive campaign against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, according to the Israeli news site, Walla (Hebrew). The campaign is reported to be a reaction to fears among the settler community that the current peace talks are making progress.
The name of the campaign is “Guard the State, No Surrendering to Kerry.” The group intends to mount an extensive billboard campaign that will employ images of past prime ministers and declarations they made opposing what the organizers perceive as the deleterious position of the U.S. Secretary.
One billboard will feature former Prime Minister Menachem Begin with a quote imploring that Jerusalem must remain the indivisible capital of Israel. Another will have Yitzhak Rabin’s visage with his statement about the importance of retaining the Jordan Valley.
If I were a design adviser to this project I would suggest that instead of using Begin for the Jerusalem billboard, use an image of President Barack Obama and his statement declaring that “Jerusalem must remain undivided” from his 2008 AIPAC speech. It would be far more attention- grabbing and embarrassing to the Americans. By the way, in that same speech Obama said that he would never force Israel to the negotiating table. I do not think Israel is exactly a willing participant in the current proceedings as Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon recently made pretty clear.
In addition to the billboards, activists intend to demonstrate against the Kerry initiative at major intersections this Saturday. According to the Deputy Director of Yesha, Yigal Dilmoni, who is the organizer of the campaign, “The Prime Minister bears the grave responsibility and follows in the path of Israeli leaders, that drew red lines and did not surrender despite American threats.”
According to the settler news site, Arutz Sheva, the campaign is organized by some of the same people that produced the video, “Kerry Solutions” which portrayed Kerry as a con artist salesman whose products do more harm than good. Annie Robbins did a post on that video, here.
Recent developments in the much maligned Kerry peace talks point to a possibility that some kind of agreement can be reached. I doubt that it would be the final status agreement which is the official goal of the negotiations, but rather an interim deal that would postpone the resolution of key issues. It is difficult to even guess what the contours of such an interim agreement would be since the parties have mostly honored their pledge to Kerry and preserved the secrecy of details of the talks. To loosely quote Bob Dylan, “Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Cohen?”
The “Guard the State” campaign was reported to have been organized as a result of growing fears that progress is being made in the negotiations. The inclusion by Kerry of the Arab League and specific Arab governments in the deliberations indicates a regional support that is vital to any deal between Israelis and Palestinians. The recent trip that Netanyahu made to Jordan, whose goal was to update and include the Hashemite Kingdom in the peace process, is another indication that Kerry’s mission is being taken seriously by all the participants.
Also, the sudden reversal of the Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, a political opportunist, who has gone from skeptical hawk to declared supporter of Kerry and his mission, indicates that jumping on the bandwagon of the U.S.- sponsored talks has become a smart move.
The Palestinian Authority is weak and it needs some kind of victory to show its constituents. The leadership is aging and probably feels Kerry is their last hope to become the founders of a Palestinian state. Israel is being pressured by the European Union and now is confronted by the surprising push by the United States to do something to address the conflict. I think the growing BDS movement is a definite contributor to the Israeli sense of isolation.
Any interim agreement will surely not come close to redressing most Palestinian grievances or establishing a sovereign Palestinian state, even according to the current circumscribed demands of the Palestinian Authority. However, an interim agreement could lead to a significant improvement in the lives of the residents of the West Bank, although it surely will justifiably disappoint many by not delivering a more equitable and permanent solution.
There are many difficult obstacles that must be overcome in order to arrive at an interim solution. However, I think it is unrealistic to ignore the possibility that Kerry’s efforts may bear fruit, although whether it will be rotten is now impossible to predict.