By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
There seems to be an ominous agreement between the government of Israel and the government of the Palestinian Authority about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s valiant efforts to bring about peace: nothing will come of it.
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has again stated that the Palestinians won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state because that would invalidate their narrative/myth that the Jews are squatting on their land. Even if, for pragmatic reasons, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would only be de facto and not de jure, it would still cancel the Palestinians’ claim to the right of return to their land, which is central to their stance.
Recognition may also jeopardize the status of Israeli Arabs. Foreign Minister Lieberman may have had that in mind when he suggested that the part of Galilee that’s largely populated by Arabs be ceded to the Palestinians in return for keeping the settlements on the West Bank. This would make the Jewish state even more Jewish.
Israelis make corresponding noises that explicitly or implicitly render Kerry’s efforts quixotic. The announcements about new building permits in the settlements and the claims that the Jordan Valley must remain in Israeli hands for security reasons fly in the face of any agreement likely to be acceptable to the Palestinians.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, whom some see as one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s successors, has been quoted by the Israeli tabloid Yediot Achronot to have said – “behind closed doors” but probably deliberately leaked – that Kerry’s efforts are “messianic” which may be a euphemism for pie in the sky. His security plan “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
Both leading Israelis and Palestinians suspect Kerry of canvassing for the Nobel Peace Prize more than believing that he can make peace between them. Ya’alon wishes him success. As he’s cited to have said: “The only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone.”
Neither side wants to be seen as the spoilers of Kerry’s ostensibly noble but in their estimation quixotic endeavors, each is very busy blaming the other as intransigent and the only obstacle to peace. While making statements designed to tell the world that no substantive concessions will be made by either Israelis or Palestinians, the leaders of both sides tell us in the same breath that they want peace and it’s the others that doesn’t.
In view of recent publicity around his death, a lot of people are now fantasizing that had Sharon been prime minister today, he’d have found a way out of the impasse, because in addition to being an extremist passionately committed to the land and the people, he was also an extremist-pragmatist who’d make concessions and thus tempt Palestinians to do the same. Many of his obituaries spoke about his talent for zigzagging.
Ya’alon, who was Israel’s Chief of Staff at the time, opposed Sharon’s most famous zigzag – when the champion of the settlement movement withdrew from Gaza and dismantled settlements – so Sharon dismissed him. It’s most unlikely that Prime Minister Netanyahu would do something similar.
For all we know, the words may be the words of Ya’alon but the thoughts may be the thoughts of Netanyahu. In any case, they’d please most members of the ruling Likud party – and as things now stand, there can be no Israeli government without it.