As the clock winds down on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s window to secure a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis, some Palestinian officials are suggesting that greater involvement by the international community is the key to the success or failure of the Kerry mission.
“It is really a decision of the international community that has not done much to see a breakthrough to the Palestinian question and to give Palestinians their basic rights,” Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad Al-Malki told The Media Line following a Fatah-organized rally in support of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the White House.
President Obama hosted Abbas on Monday, a meeting which ended with an admonition from his host to take “tough political risks.”
Al-Malki disagreed. “The US administration should really realize that any kind of pressure put on the Palestinian president is not going to work,” he said.
Al-Malki also argued that the international community, which he defined as including the nations of the world except the US, needs to engage itself more in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And if they do not, the PA will be pestering them to do so.
“As long as there is no understanding, comprehension, and cooperation from the international community to support our goals, we will continue to make our voice loud” in demanding greater European participation in the peace process.
Dr. Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow at Washington’s American Task Force for Palestine believes Secretary Kerry is already reaching out to his colleagues on the Continent. Ibish told The Media Line that, “We have seen systematic solicitation of Europe and the Arab world by Secretary Kerry on his peace efforts. He will need more support if and when a framework emerges.”
Professor Eytan Gilboa, an expert in American-Israeli relations and US policy in the Middle East, thinks the international community is “nonsense and does not exist, especially when you look at what’s happening in Syria with the thousands who have been killed in three years.”
Gilboa told The Media Line that what he does care about is the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). He pointed to Palestinians having been able to get some European nations to boycott not only products from Israeli communities in post-1967 territories, but from pre-’67 Israel as well.
“I think the fact that the Palestinians are doing this campaign means the de-legitimization and demonizing of Israel (persists) and shows how serious the Palestinians are about peace making,” Gilboa said.
A Palestinian political analyst opines that the Barack Obama of the second term is not the same as the one who came to office in 2008. Hani Al-Masri argues that during in his first term, President Obama had a vision and was ready to exert pressure on Israel in order to reach a final agreement that included seeing a halt to Jewish settlement building. “Mr. Obama has gone back on his word,” Al-Masri told The Media Line.
He said Obama is not really involved in the talks, leaving it up Secretary of State Kerry and before him, special envoy George Mitchell. Furthermore, he says the American commander-in-chief could have exerted pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories last March. Al-Masri said that until now no real pressure has come from either the international community or America and claimed that it was difficult to differentiate between the US and Israel during negotiations.
Al-Masri declared that, “The American position is that of the right wing (Israeli) policy,” a suggestion Gilboa rejected as “nonsense,” arguing that, “The radical right does not want two state solution; Kerry wants a two-state solution.” ATFP’s Ibish also agrees, declaring that, “The US is the indispensable broker, which is why all parties look to American leadership on the peace process.”
Gilboa said the Obama meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas were designed “to find out how to continue the negotiations – namely a framework for further negotiations which include principles to be further negotiated.” He says both sides prefer to continue negotiations without a framework, and sees the problem as being “the Palestinian preconditions: release of prisoners and freezing of settlements.”
Al-Masri, though, believes that the international community is making a mistake by leaving the quest for a peace agreement exclusively to the Obama administration.
“(The Americans) need to stop treating Israel as if it’s above the law,” he said.
But Gilboa insists that is not the case, arguing that, “There were warnings made by Kerry and Obama against Israel. None were made to Abbas…The Palestinian leadership is demanding and have not made any concessions and are incapable of making concessions for final status.”
Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein agrees with Al-Masri’s blaming of Israel, but adds that PA leadership considers Kerry to be an honest man whose efforts are being thwarted by the Israelis.
“The US cabinet obeys the Israel influence, and this will not be good for their policy in the Middle East,” Abu Ein told The Media Line. But he still holds out hope that the non-American states will do something substantive relative to the peace process.
“I think the international community will support the Palestinian cause because if we fail in Washington right now, that is where we will turn.”
Meanwhile, at the Ramallah rally in support of Abbas, 37-year old screenwriter Shadi Saeed summed up the prevalent feeling of frustration over the lack of progress eight months into the talks. “What do we want? We want our rights and to live side by side with Israel. Oh, and we want America to be an honest broker,” he told The Media Line.
“Frustration is synonymous with the Palestinian cause and no progress (read peace) is also synonymous,” offered the Palestinian Authority’s Al-Malki. But the anonymous Israeli official seemed more optimistic.
“We believe it’s possible to move forward. We’re playing our part, but are the Palestinians willing to play theirs?” he asked.
Gilboa says the Palestinians should have opted for direct negotiations with Israel if President Abbas is “serious,” arguing that negotiations cannot be imposed as he says Secretary Kerry is doing, but rather “they have to come from the ground up.”
He laments that, “We have a model of a successful Egyptian-Israeli peace process, but we don’t have leaders in Israel or Palestine like Sadat and Begin.”
Article written by Abdullah H. Erakat
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line