Why Kerry’s efforts to intimidate the Israeli leadership won't succeed.
The speech given by Secretary of State John Kerry at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, February 1, 2014, created quite a stir in Israel. The media debated Kerry’s intent and politicians from across the political spectrum reacted to what they perceived as threats of boycotts against Israel. It is clear that Kerry’s statements were intended to intimidate the Israeli leadership into falling in line with the framework for peace he will be delivering in the near future.
In Munich, Kerry stated, “Everywhere I go in the world, wherever I go – I promise you, no exaggeration, the Far East, Africa, Latin America – one of the first questions out of the mouths of a foreign minister or a prime minister or a president is, ‘Can’t you guys do something to help bring an end to this conflict between Palestinians and Israelis?’ Indonesia – people care about it because it’s become either in some places an excuse or in other places an organizing principle for efforts that can be very troubling in certain places. I believe that – and you see for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There is talk of boycotts and other kind of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?”
Secretary of State Kerry spoke of consequences for Israel should the current peace talks fail. He warned that “Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary…”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Sunday, February 2, 2014 to Kerry’s speech. He said, “Boycott attempts are immoral, unjust, and will not achieve their goal.” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz argued that “Israel can’t conduct negotiations with a gun pointed to its head.” He went on to say that Kerry’s comments were “offensive.” Naftali Bennett, the Economics Minister, charged that Kerry’s statements show him as siding with Israel’s foes. “We expect our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier.” Ethiopian-born Member of Knesset Pnina Tamano-Shata, of the centrist Yesh Atid party, observed that Kerry’s statements at the Munich Conference “are irresponsible in my view and harm the State of Israel.”
Israeli voices on the political left including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni defended Kerry saying, “When the leader says to us friends, the reality is going to change in the event of a political deal, this does not constitute a threat to the State of Israel, but rather defines reality as it is.”
What Livni neglected to explain however, is why Kerry failed to mention what consequences the Palestinians would suffer if the talks failed. It is the Palestinians under Mahmoud Abbas (not to mention the Palestinians of Hamas in Gaza) who have been the rejectionist party in these negotiations (scheduled to end on April 29, 2014, unless extended). In an interview with the New York Times on Sunday, February 2, 2014, Abbas was asked by a reporter about recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. He replied, “This is out of the question,” noting that “Jordan and Egypt were not asked to do so when they signed peace treaties with Israel.”
According to Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who also spoke at the Munich Security Conference, “(Israel) was not willing to talk about giving up one inch unless the Palestinians agree that at the end of the process, the framework of the negotiations will include the recognition of our right to exist as a nation-state of the Jewish people, a finality of claims, (meaning an end of conflict-JP), giving up the right of return, (of Palestinian refugees to Israel-JP) and addressing our security needs.” Yaalon added, “Hopefully we’ll get it, if not, we will manage.”
It is unlikely that Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians will compromise on the “right of return,” which might be a deal breaker. They know full well that such an agreement would be akin to Israel committing demographic suicide. Nor will the Palestinians show flexibility with recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Mahmoud Abbas told the NY Times that Israeli soldiers could remain in the West Bank for up to five years and that Jewish settlements should be phased out of the new Palestinian state. He proposed that NATO forces should be responsible for security on the West Bank and in preventing terror attacks against Israel. He also promised a demilitarized Palestinian state with only “police” forces to keep order.
Israel’s experience with foreign forces policing against terror or preventing war is rather bitter. In Lebanon, UNIFIL forces enabled Hezbollah to accumulate over 100,000 missiles now aimed at Israel, and allowed Hezbollah terrorists to fire at Israeli communities across the border. In the Sinai, UN troops folded as soon as Nasser ordered them out in May, 1967. And, NATO forces did little to prevent the bloodletting in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. Even if Israel agreed to the infringement on its right to self-defense and accepted NATO forces, the Palestinians will not compromise on all the other issues mentioned by Yaalon.
Palestinian NGO’s and labor unions initiated the call for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel in 2005, and managed to bring anti-Semites, and extreme-leftist groups in Europe and America under their umbrella. Ironically, while in South Africa (a BDS movement stronghold) for the funeral of Nelson Mandela last December, President of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas said that he does not support a boycott against Israel.
The mere mention of boycotts by Kerry was a way of taking sides - the Palestinian side. Boycotts, however, are nothing new. The Jews in Palestine lived with them even before the Jewish state was established. Much like in Nazi Germany, Zionist institutions and Jewish businesses were boycotted by the Arab establishment in Mandatory Palestine. Soon after Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the Arab League imposed its boycott, which lasted until the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. In 1994, the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council countries ended their boycott of Israel.
On campuses across the country there are two specific groups responsible for waging BDS campaigns: The Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). What goes unreported and what Kerry neglects to acknowledge is that 85% of Palestinian residents on the West Bank are interested in economic cooperation with Israel.
Then, there are Europe’s traditional anti-Semites in academia and business who have embraced the opportunity to harm the Jewish state, allegedly in the name of peace. European bankers are now queuing up in Tehran for post-sanctions business, while at the same time, boycotting Israeli banks that do business on the West Bank. They should be publicly shamed and targeted for counter-boycotts.
The Arab/Muslim world has tried war, terror, and economic warfare against Israel and has failed. The Jewish state is more prosperous now than ever, while the Arab world is mired in poverty and misery. The Europeans murdered Six Million Jews, but failed to destroy the Jewish people. A strong and flourishing Israel is an anathema to the Europeans, and to the anti-Semites on campuses in Europe and America. John Kerry must understand that his insinuation of the boycott threat against Israel can only evoke the dark memories of the past, and will not bring Israel to submission, or force it to sacrifice its vital interests.
Don't miss Jamie Glazov's video interview with Mudar Zahran, a secular leader of Palestinians in Jordan who has been living in exile in the UK since 2010. He calls out John Kerry on his Mideast "Peace" Plan -- and asks why a U.S. Secretary of State is threatening Israel to commit suicide:
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