CMEP Bulletin: Kerry to Return to Region for Round 5
weekly update from Churches for Middle East Peace
On May 24, Kerry concluded his fourth visit to the region in barely two months by saying, “We are reaching the time (when) leaders need to make hard decisions.” Kerry has said he will not continue his efforts if he does not feel that the parties are willing to make those “hard decisions” and take steps towards peace. With Kerry’s upcoming visit scheduled for June 27-29, will he get the reception that he and other supporters of a two-state solution are hoping for?
As the CMEP Bulletin discussed last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a serious problem with his cabinet. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon created a stir when he said that if a peace plan were presented to the current cabinet, it would not be passed. He explained that he and other ministers in opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state did not have a problem with Kerry’s efforts only because they did not foresee them becoming fruitful.
This week, Netanyahu’s right-wing rival Naftali Bennett told a group of settlers, “The attempt to establish a Palestinian state in our land has ended.” He continued by saying the efforts were “futile” because, “Everyone who wanders around Judea and Samaria [the Biblical nomenclature for the West Bank] knows that what they say in the corridors of Annapolis and Oslo is detached from reality. Today there are 400,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria and another 250,000 in eastern Jerusalem.” He then called on the government to “build, build, build” more settlements in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who continues to profess his support for a two-state solution, quickly distanced himself from his minister’s comments. He told reporters, “Foreign policy is shaped by the prime minister and my view is clear. I will seek a negotiated settlement where you’d have a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
The New York Times responded to Netanyahu’s repeated statements in support of a two-state solution by observing, “While Mr. Netanyahu distanced himself from the remarks, questions about the sincerity of his recent pleas for peace resurfaced. Clearly, a dissonance exists in Israeli public opinion, where a strong majority supports two states, but only along parameters the Palestinians have roundly rejected.”
Following Bennett’s comments, prominent Israeli and U.S. Jewish voices stressed the importance of a two-state solution.