Seven Reasons Kerry's Mideast Talks Are Delusional
Well OK, then: In about nine months, the Arab-Israeli conflict will be over, and we can all move on to something else.
Here's what John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, said yesterday at a news conference in Washington, in the presence of the lead Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators: "The parties have agreed here today that all of the final status issues, all of the core issues, and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation. And they are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims. Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months."
Just to be clear, this is what will need to happen by next April, in time for the White House signing ceremony:
1. Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, will have to be divided in a way that doesn't cause a global religious war. A Palestinian capital will have to be established in the eastern half of the city, and the world's Muslims must agree to the continued control over much of the Old City, including and especially the Western Wall, by Israel. For their part, the Israelis must agree to cede permanent control of the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, to Muslim religious authorities. That or the parties must agree to international control over the so-called Holy Basin, which contains the most important sites of monotheism.
2. The Jews who live in Hebron, Judaism's second-holiest city, must be made to leave, because the city will be part of Palestine. Or the Palestinian Authority must be convinced to grant them citizenship. The stated position of the Palestinian Authority is that Palestine will be empty of Israelis.
3. The descendants of the Palestinians who either fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 Arab attack on the fledgling Jewish state must be told that they aren't moving to Israel. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, must also survive the inevitable attempts on his life if he agrees to give up the Palestinian claim of "return." Also, the Palestinians will have to agree never to lodge claims against Israel again.
4. A plan must be formulated to remove anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 Israelis from the settlements on the far side of the West Bank security barrier. Among these settlers are thousands of fanatics who sympathized with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli prime minister, for negotiating with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Also, Israel will have to stop building new settlements and thickening others. The current Israeli government is possibly the most pro-settler one in the country's history, and a good percentage of the Israeli officer corps, the soldiers who would have to remove Jews from settlements, lives in settlements.
5. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must be persuaded to trust each other. As Avi Issacharoff writes in the Times of Israel, "Abbas believes Netanyahu is unwilling to make peace, while Netanyahu believes Abbas is unable to. Both are sending out pessimistic vibes, giving those around them the feeling that nothing much will come of all this. This can be seen in their decision to send representatives to Washington instead of holding a high-level summit."
6. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, where almost half the future citizens of Palestine live, must either dissolve itself or be dissolved by force or change its ideology in such a way as to conform to the Palestinian Authority's vision of compromise. If Hamas refuses to change, then Israel and the Palestinian Authority must have an effective plan to counter the mass acts of terrorism that often come during periods of heightened hopes for peace.
7. Hezbollah and Iran must be convinced not to start a war designed to interrupt the peace process. Also, Iran must be stopped from going nuclear, which would further destabilize an already destabilized Middle East. Also, Egypt must not collapse, the Syrian civil war must not spill over into the Israeli-Palestinian arena, Lebanon must remain a unitary state and Jordan must stay under control of the Hashemite monarchy.
I'm sure I'm missing some things. I'll mention those later, whatever they are. I actually admire Kerry's chutzpah a great deal. It's important, for the sake of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, that a compromise is constructed in a way that prevents further bloodshed. I just hope that there's a secret Plan B -- some sort of interim arrangement that could forestall further tragedy even in the absence of a permanent accord.
Because if there isn't, and Kerry's negotiations fail, then the situation next year may be even unhappier than it is now.
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Jeffrey Goldberg at email@example.com