Secretary of State John Kerry has been repeatedly warning Israel of dire consequences if the current talks with the Palestinians do not lead to a negotiated peace. In November he warned of a third intifada on Israeli TV.
And on Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, Kerry had this to say:
Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It is not sustainable. It is illusionary. You see, for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?
Many Israelis reacted angrily. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz called Kerry’s words “offensive, unreasonable and unacceptable. It is impossible to expect Israel to negotiate with a gun to its head.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki came to Kerry’s defense, saying:
Secretary Kerry has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts…. [He] expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements.
It is an accurate portrayal to say that to most Israelis, these statements sound like threats. “Make peace, or really bad things will happen to you” is perceived as a threat. Resentment is only intensified by the fact that—at least in public—Kerry makes no comparable threats to the Palestinian side.
But aside from the propriety of what Kerry said in Munich, is it true? Will Israel be an increasingly delegitimized, boycotted country if the current talks end without an agreement?
On the one hand, in moves regarded by many as alarming, in recent days two major European banks have taken action against Israeli banks. Sweden’s Nordea Bank—Scandinavia’s largest—asked for “clarifications” from two Israeli banks involved in building in the West Bank. Denmark’s Danske Bank—largest in that country—announced on its website that it was boycotting Israel’s Bank Hapoalim for that same alleged sin of building in places Europe thinks should be Jew-free.
On the other hand, as an Israeli official observed to the Jerusalem Post, “The success of the so-called boycotters has been limited in the extreme.” The official pointed out that
[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu returned last week from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he met both with leaders of countries—such as Mexico, Panama, Nigeria and China—and international companies who were very eager to do business with Israel, “not because they are Zionists, but because they understand there is so much to gain from doing business with us.”
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Kerry and others who bludgeon Israel with warnings about terrible outcomes if peace talks fail—a binational state, a boycotted state, an intifada—are right.
Even if that were the case, there would still be problems.
For one thing, imagine being on the Palestinian side and hearing that Israel is essentially desperate; that for Israel the talks are do-or-die. You would react, of course, by driving as hard a bargain as possible—or just letting the talks drift into failure and watching Israel meet its bitter fate.
But there is an even more fundamental problem. What if, despite Israel’s best efforts, the other side is not interested in peace?
Evidence for that supposition is not exactly lacking; it’s abundant. Israel has had to free dozens of Palestinian terrorists just to have the talks at all; they were received as heroes and got big boosts in their stipends. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has said that the Palestinian side would never relinquish the right of return, a formula for Israel’s demographic doom, and never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Meanwhile the Palestinians—as “peace talks” continue—keep naming their schools after terrorists and raising another generation with terrorists as role models. One can easily go on in this vein. What one cannot do is convince a hard-core peace processor like John Kerry that it matters.
Instead the onus is put on Israel, while the entity that celebrates and cultivates terror gets a free pass. It’s a disgrace.
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