Feature

How they see us: Can Kerry revive Palestinian talks?

Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to rekindle the Arab League’s peace initiative.

Why is he even bothering? asked the Arab News (Saudi Arabia) in an editorial. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to rekindle “the fading embers of a Palestinian settlement” by reviving the Arab League’s peace initiative. That plan envisions a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel that would require the Palestinians to accept other land in exchange for the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But right before Kerry arrived in the region last week, the Israelis once again delivered a diplomatic snub to Washington, demonstrating that “they have no intention of displaying any flexibility.” The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that it would give “retrospective permission” to four illegal West Bank settlements that even Israeli authorities had previously refused to allow—and would even expand them. Palestinians are justifiably angry “that once again their leadership has been persuaded to be patient and open-handed, only to have the Israelis spit in its face.” And of course, they also spit in Washington’s face.

It’s the Palestinians who won’t bend, said Eitan Gilboa in Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel). Kerry said he wanted to bring both sides to the table without preconditions, and Israel has agreed, with President Shimon Peres reiterating Israel’s support for a two-state solution. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insists that Israel first halt all settlement construction in the West Bank, and Kerry couldn’t make him change his mind. That’s further evidence that the Obama administration, which has done nothing about Russian interference in the Syrian war, is perceived as weak in the region. Now Kerry “threatens to present an American peace plan if the two sides do not renew their negotiations.” Good luck to him. Every U.S. plan to date has failed.

Kerry did offer one new idea: a $4 billion investment plan for the Palestinian economy, said the Gulf News (United Arab Emirates). “This is a plan for the Palestinian economy that is bigger, bolder, and more ambitious than anything proposed before,” he said. “Is it a fantasy?” We’d have to say yes. First, there’s the question of where the money would come from. But how can any economic revival plan work in the West Bank, while Palestinians in Gaza live under a state of siege, “their water resources controlled by Israel, their electricity supplies turned off at the whim of the Jewish state?” The Palestinian people are not divisible.

Nor can Palestinian well-being be divorced from statehood, said Hani al-Masri in Al-Ayyam (West Bank). The Palestinian uprising’s main achievement was to “turn the Palestinian cause from a humanitarian one into a political cause.” Kerry’s proposal to develop the economy before we get a state may be rooted in good intentions; $4 billion could create much-needed jobs and infrastructure. But a focus on our humanitarian needs would obscure what is really going on here. The occupation is creating “a fait accompli on the ground.” If we don’t change that, through a two-state solution, then no amount of money will help us.

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