CMEP Bulletin: Kerry Goes to Region to Ease Tensions
On Monday, the three month-old peace process was floundering. Palestinian negotiators were incensed not only over last week’s settlement announcement, but also the Israeli claim that Palestinian negotiators had agreed to allow these periodic announcements as part of the deal to renew negotiations. Enter Secretary of State John Kerry. The chief U.S. diplomat held a marathon of closed door meetings but before leaving the region he gave a wake up call in the form of a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian journalists. He said the settlement announcements sent a message that perhaps Israelis are “not really serious” about peace and warned that Israel would face international isolation and violence if a peace deal is not achieved.
Over the weekend, Palestinian negotiators protested the announcement of new settlement plans and threatened to take up the issue in international bodies. PLO Secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo said he would tell Secretary Kerry, “You either stop this farce and we go to negotiations without any one party deciding their future or we will go to the Security Council, not to condemn Israel but to demand from it better guarantees than what we have today. We will tell them there are no negotiations.” He added, “We are disappointed by the American role.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinians knew all along the Israelis would build during the negotiations and “All the Palestinian allegations that this is a violation are an attempt to create an artificial crisis. Israel has met all the commitments that it has undertaken.” Any acceptance of settlement construction by the Palestinian negotiators would be a public opinion disaster.
With that, United States Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to salvage the negotiations that he worked to renew. Gershon Baskin wrote, “Secretary of State John Kerry’s most recent visit and round of talks with both sides is certainly aimed at snapping the whip (or a magic wand) at both sides to get them to calm down and refrain from statements and actions that could end the talks before their time.”