Saturday, July 20, 2013

The easy part of the task

So it seems that he did it, after all. After so many mocked his mission and  prematurely proclaimed its demise (as did I in one of these blogs). 
The Israeli media accorded John Kerry the ultimate insult of hardly bothering to report on his repeated visits. And for their part, the settlers and their representatives in the cabinet and the Knesset did not regard Kerry and the prospect of  negotiations with the Palestinians as a threat. "So, let there be some talks. Nothing will come of it, anyway" said Naftali Bennett and his friends hardly more than a week ago.

And now, after all the efforts, the repeated trips and shuttles from Washington and back, all the severe problems and the infinite insistence - dubbed as naïve - John Kerry seems to have succeeded. At least, in the easiest and simplest part of the task: bringing a representative of the government of Israel and one from the Palestinian leadership to sit in one room and talk to each other. But what reasons have we, if any, to assume that this time something would really come out of the talks?

There is no festive ceremony planned, no photo opportunity, no formal handshakes, no declaration of “A Historic Moment”. Nothing even remotely resembling, for example, the pathetic show of George W. Bush’s Annapolis Conference. Tzipi Livni of occupying Israel and Saeb Erekat of occupied Palestine, who already met more than once, are to come to Washington without ceremony and talk "in complete secrecy, away from the public and the media, so as to deal thoroughly with all the most sensitive issues, without interruption and without public pressure."

But what is going to happen there, away from the public and the media? Would Erekat ask "What about the 1967 borders" and Livni  answer "I have no mandate from Netanyahu to discuss this" - which would essentially bring negotiations to their end fifteen minutes after they started?

Just maybe, one who sets up talks on such a basis, with no ceremonies and no photo opportunities and just simple plain prosaic talks, might be seriously intending them to bear fruit? Not be just “A Peace Process", of which we have had more than enough, but one which ends with real peace? Getting there will be far more difficult than just getting Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni to sit in a single room.

At least, the honorable Naftali Bennett, Minister of Economy, is no longer certain that talks will not lead to anything. He had started to feel apprehensive and also make threats: "Let it be clear, the Jewish Home Party under my leadership will have no part, even for one second, in a government which agrees to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 lines". Maybe Bennet has some inside information causing him to feel apprehension and make threats?

These talks are starting under the shadow of the European Union 's decision to impose a far-reaching boycott on the West Bank settlement enterprise, a decision which alarmed the Israeli political establishment and brought the issue of the 1967 borders to the top of the national agenda. And if talks get into crisis because of this issue – which is very likely - the European Union will be waiting outside for Netanyahu, with another package of sanctions. "Good cop/Bad cop", is a well-known power play, practiced worldwide for many centuries. And maybe it will work for us, too, with the nice American cop sitting inside the negotiating room and the dastardly European cop waiting outside with a club?

Anyway, the fact that we got this far proves that Secretary of State John Kerry is very stubborn. If Kerry really wants the negotiations to produce results, he would have great need of all his stubbornness.