Reason behind John Kerry’s 4 Billion Dollar Proposal
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, visited the occupied territories and Palestine for the fourth time since taking this post. It seems that the approach of Obama’s second administration with regard to the peace process has significantly changed since his first administration when he appointed an envoy, George Mitchell, to solve the problems. How would you assess Obama’s practical view in his two administrations?
It seems that the Americans have always placed the issue of Palestine, particularly the part which is related to providing the ground for compromise between the Zionist regime and the Palestinian Authority, on their agenda. Furthermore, from the first time Obama began his visit of the region and entered Egypt, he has attempted to prepare the grounds for peace and compromise between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But it seems that during his first four years, his top priority was not the issue of Palestine. Of course, the coming to power of Netanyahu in Israel and the conditions which were set for the start of negotiations and the outlook which was indicative of a deadlock in negotiation helped to ignore the issue of Palestine compared to the developments in the Middle East. It must also be mentioned that half of Obama’s first term was devoted to the issues caused by the awakening and recent movements of the people of the region and their presence in the streets and the changes that happened. In Obama’s second administration, the issue of Palestine, which is inseparable from US foreign policy in the Middle East region, was reconsidered. The reason was that Netanyahu, as in the past, talked about the same issues but it seems that the formation of his new cabinet indicated that the US can play a role in this matter and, in fact, he forced Obama and his team to participate. It is on this basis that John Kerry visits the region and, besides the important regional issues like Syria, considers the issue of Palestine each time as well.
During his first days of power in the White House in 2009, Obama promised to solve problems in the Middle East peace process during his presidency. But during the past four and a half years, there has been no success in this regard except deadlock in negotiations. What are the reasons behind the failure of US mediation in this matter?
In the first stage, when there was a progress in the trend of negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, there was a general harmony in the viewpoints of the Zionist regime and the US. In other words, when the Republicans were in power, if the radical Likud party was running the country, stopping the negotiation could have been a priority, but when the Democrats come to power and the Labor Party is running Israel, there is a common viewpoint between them. But the new event that took place was that when Obama came to power, Netanyahu and his radical party were running the country. Thus, this was the first factor which led to the suspension of negotiations. The other point is related to the weakness of the Arab countries which Netanyahu and the Israelis felt from the dominant conditions in the region. It means that when it was felt that the governments of the region were involved with their own domestic issues and the Arab states were dealing with their domestic issues, it was also felt that the Palestinians had lost their Arab support and Hamas was also no longer enjoying the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The outcome of all of these assumptions and political interpretations was the growing level of Israel’s demands. Under such conditions, if negotiation is the objective, the Israelis will sit at the table if they have the upper hand.
During his meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, John Kerry proposed the idea of 4 billion dollars of financial aid for the economic revival of Palestine but with the condition that significant progress be made in the peace process; a move which was faced with harsh reactions by Hamas and even some personalities from the Fatah movement. The opponents of this plan accused Kerry of political blackmail in exchange for economic aid. How would you assess this proposal and what is your prediction of Washington’s political demands of the government of Palestine?
When the problems related to both sides, meaning Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, have caused pre-conditions to be set for starting the negotiation, both parties propose issues which are very heavy at the first stage. It means that the Palestinian side would propose the halting of settlement-buildings and the Israeli side would propose the issue of recognition of the Jewish state which shows a deadlock in the formation of bilateral talks. It seems that in order to break this barrier, the Americans will enter the scene with another slogan to change the conditions. The atmosphere which John Kerry is creating to overpass this barrier is called the economic peace process. Of course, this idea had been proposed before John Kerry assumed this post. Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, had proposed this idea for the first time during the last decade. The objective of this plan is to force the Palestinians to enter the negotiations in exchange for helping the economic growth of this country by paying 4 billion dollars. Along this line, proposals are given by the US to improve the living situation of the Palestinians.
There is no doubt that this plan will accomplish certain things, but the most important issue is the objective of the Americans: By joining such an economic plan, the Palestinians will forget the main issue of Palestine, the issue of occupation and important matters like the return of the displaced and the refugees and will move towards prioritizing the economic conditions before their political demands.
In his meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, Shimon Peres, the president of the Zionist regime, stated that the majority of the Palestinians welcome the peace plan with Palestine based on the 1967 borders. This is while some Israeli radicals have criticized him for making such a statement and Tzipi Livni has claimed that the Israelis have very different views with regard to the details of peace with Palestine, such as the issue of the borders. What are the basis and roots of these differences in the political structure of Israel?
If the main negotiator and decision-maker in Israel is the head of the cabinet, i.e. Netanyahu, they do not believe in borders and under the present conditions, they not only reject the 1967 borders, but they also do not have any definition of the basis of common negotiation either. In other words, they express their opposition to any talks with the Palestinians to reach a common point. Thus, not only is the disagreement over the issue of the 1967 borders clear for the Palestinian side, but the Israeli side also does not accept these borders and believes that in comparison with the conditions when this issue was proposed, their situation today is much better than the past. This issue has reached a point where the Arab Foreign Ministers, led by the Foreign Minister of Qatar, delivered a plan to John Kerry two weeks ago stating that, on behalf of the Palestinians, they are ready to guarantee that the basis of the issues would not be the settlements and previous borders, but that it can rather be the exchange of territories. In fact, by ignoring the 1967 borders which was an international agreement, they reiterate that this issue is not constant. Therefore, we witness an increase in differences in the Palestinian ranks where Hamas and the Palestinian forces have entered the scene and expressed their disagreement with the plan of the Arabs and Mahmoud Abbas. The result is that finding a solution to compromise and negotiate continues to be out of reach these days. Although Mahmoud Abbas has mentioned security agreements with the Israelis, there have been differences between the forces of the Palestinian Authority and the Zionist regime since the past. But the important point is that the Americans are leading issues behind the scene and propagate that they are active in the issue of Palestine and will probably take serious steps towards bringing both sides to the negotiating table. This is while there is no evidence of such measures and it does not seem that the level of differences has reached a point to make negotiation possible.
Britain’s Foreign Minister severely criticized the continuation of settlement-building policies last week. At the same time, some reports indicated that there was a direct phone call between John Kerry and Israel’s ambassador in Washington where he criticized the continuation of settlement-buildings, contrary to promises made to the White House. What is the US and Europe’s approach with regard to the tension-building policies of Tel Aviv? Can it be said that Israel’s old friends also consider this regime as the main obstacle for negotiation?
There have always been differences of opinion between the EU and the US with regard to the issue of Palestine and the issue stressed by the Europeans – meaning the European Union, because each European country might have its own special viewpoint – is that the Security Council resolutions must be enforced and they consider the recognition of the 1967 borders as the starting point of international pressures on Israel. During recent years, Israel has increased settlement-buildings along the 1967 border areas and this has created the concern for the Europeans that the existing gap between both sides to reach peace is widening. The other point is that, in general, the Israelis do not pay attention to the Europeans’ viewpoints. It means that with regard to the issue of relations with the Palestinians or reaching any kind of agreement, they hold the America card and, in fact, use US support to exert pressure on Palestine and the Arab countries. Europe feels that it plays no role or not a very significant one in this matter, hence, by proposing such plans, reiterates its disagreement with the radical Israeli forces.