Friday, April 25, 2014

A whole new ball game

A bit unexpectedly, in recent weeks the diplomatic initiative went over to the Palestinians. Every day, attention is riveted to the latest developments at the bureau of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Banner headlines in the morning tell of the newest initiative from Ramallah. Towards noon, a chorus of angry reactions is heard from Netanyahu and his ministers. In the evening, there come the rather confused reactions from Washington and Bruxelles. Quite a surprise, after a long time in which the Palestinians and their leaders were dragged into diplomatic pathways which were defined for them by others.

Last year, Abu Mazen entered with obvious reluctance negotiations with the Netanyahu Government. The Palestinians had all the reasons in the world to assume that Netanyahu himself does not want an agreement including withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. And even had Netanyahu wanted it, he could not have gotten such an agreement through his cabinet, with his extreme right coalition partners and his no less extreme fellow members of the Likud Party. Knowing that Netanyahu wants nothing but a show of talks and a 'peace process' leading nowhere, Abu Mazen was pressured to enter negotiations under the threat that otherwise the Palestinians would  be denounced worldwide as rejectionists.

Abu Mazen was required to oblige himself not to go to the United Nations and not to take any unilateral steps on the international arena, while Netanyahu was given the freedom to continue unilateral settlement acts on the ground. Housing Minister Uri Ariel, an incomparable expert in settlement construction, made the maximum use of this opportunity.

The only sweetener given for the Palestinians' bitter pill was the release of 104 prisoners - 104 out of some 5000 in Israeli prisons, 104 held even before the Oslo Agreements, twenty or even thirty years behind bars. This prisoner release was divided by Netanyahu into four batches, each one accompanied by a massive propaganda campaign in the Israeli media on "The release of Murderers" and a demonstrative settlement building surge for "counter-balance".

For a few months, one could cherish some hope that this process might nevertheless bear fruit. Not by an agreement and understanding between Netanyahu's negotiators and those of Abu Mazen - there never was the slightest chance of that. If there was any chance, it would have been by forceful American mediation - putting a frame agreement on the table, which the parties could not afford to refuse; directly confronting Netanyahu, with the Europeans acting as the "bad cop", making a credible threat of steps which might hurt the Israeli economy.

It is very possible that these were always false hopes and illusions. That Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama never seriously intended a head-on confrontation with Netanyahu and his supporters in the American political system. Also that Catherine Ashton and Merkel and Hollande and Cameron never seriously intended to play the role which we attributed to them - of stern friends. Lacking that, there was left to the "persistent" John Kerry only what seemed the path of least resistance - to cut a deal with Netanyahu and bring it as "take it or leave it" to the Palestinians.

According to leaks in the Israeli media, the deal was supposed to be palatable to Netanyahu on quite a few key points: clear-cut formulations about long-term Israeli presence in the strategic Jordan Valley, and the demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as "a Jewish State", and conversely deliberately vague formulations about the 1967 borders and the Palestinian capital in East-Jerusalem. This was probably the dish which Kerry presented to Abu Mazen at their stormy meeting in Paris - and the Palestinian President rejected it out of hand, and rejected it again when it was warmed up again by President Obama in the White House.

Then, there was left the Americans only the choice between declaring failure - and in that way handing Netanyahu on a silver platter the victory in the "blame game" - or trying at any price to buy more time and extend the negotiations beyond the defined deadline of April 29.

Perhaps it would have succeeded. Perhaps Abu Mazen would have agreed to extend the talks until the end of the year, as Kerry asked - though in the Palestinian society there were increasing calls for ending the farce. But Netanyahu's right-wing partners have cut the Gordian knot when they intensively pressured the Prime Minister - forcing him to cancel the fourth batch of prisoner release, scheduled for March 29. This was a blatant violation of an explicit Israeli commitment, which eliminated the only sweetener offered to the Palestinian bitter pill - and which released the Palestinians from the suffocating siege of negotiations leading nowhere, providing them a sudden gust of fresh air, the freedom to take their own initiatives.

First came the public and demonstrative signature of the request for Palestinian adherence to fifteen international organizations and treaties. Then the proposal to extend negotiations beyond April 29 -  but provided that they be purposeful talks, aimed at determining the borders of Palestine-to-be, and that settlement construction be completely frozen during talks. Then, the threat to dissolve the PA and "hand over the keys" to Israel. And finally - the agreement on reconciliation and ending the deep division among Palestinians, separating Fatah from Hamas and the West Bank from the Gaza Strip. The Prime Minister’s office in West Jerusalem and the State Department in Washington were confused and disconcerted at the abundance of Palestinian initiatives landing on their desks, and accused the intelligence people who had also been totally surprised by the Palestinians moves.

“Do the Palestinians themselves know what they want? Let them decide if they want to dismantle the PA or to unite with Hamas" mocked Netanyahu. In fact, however, all these rapidly interchanging initiatives carried a single message – to the Israelis, the Americans, the Europeans, and the entire world. Over is the old game in which the Palestinians were required to play a secondary role dictated to them, in the Procrustean bed of ongoing occupation. From now on, the Palestinians are taking their fate into their own hands and introduce initiatives to which others will have to react. To his own  Palestinian people, the message of the initiatives emanating from Abbas' office is no less important : it is possible to take the initiative and advance Palestinian interests - without resorting to violence, such as deteriorated into a bloodbath following the failure of Camp David fourteen years ago .

Can it succeed? What other surprises have the Palestinian in store for Netanyahu and Kerry and Obama and the other actors in this drama? One can think of at least one more step which might materialize soon: a candidacy for the Palestinian presidency presented by Marwan Barghouti - the most famous Palestinian prisoner, and the leader considered as the having the greatest chance to succeed Abbas. He may well be elected President in his prison cell - and on the day after, the Palestinian security personnel would notify their Israeli counterparts: "For security coordination between us, you have to apply to our President who is in your jail."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Where do we go from here?

John Kerry does not come over any more, but he still sends his personal representative Martin Indyk. Once again a meeting was convened between the representatives of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, again an effort to achieve at least an extension of the negotiations, and again it failed, and again an American announcement  that efforts will continue. It was not easy to locate this information - the editors in much of the electronic and printed media did not really consider it a newsworthy item, and they can hardly be blamed.

In the weekend edition of Yediot Ahronot, Nahum Barnea published his wry analysis: "Everybody is sick and tired of the talks. Correction: nearly everybody. Kerry maintains them like a gambler in a casino who insists on placing his money on the roulette wheel, in the hope that for once the ball will land on his number. When he took up the assignment he believed that he would reach a Peace Agreement. Then he reduced his aim to a Framework Agreement, after which he further reduced it to 'an American proposal for a framework', and then further to just 'ideas'. In the end, the whole of America's prestige is invested in a marginal, dubious deal [to prolong negotiations for a few more months], which would only prolong the mutual torture. From a means of achieving an agreement, the negotiations have become an aim in themselves."

Prime Minister Netanyahu has no problem with negotiations as an aim in themselves, talks which will go on and on and on lead nowhere. This is precisely what he wanted in the first place and still wants today – to be able to push off all demands and criticisms and international pressures and whisper "Shhhh, keep quiet, we are talking, we are in negotiations with the Palestinians, there is a Peace Process going on, please  do not disturb."

And not only Netanyahu. Also Minister Uri Elitzur, of the Jewish Home Party which constitutes the extreme right wing of the Netanyahu Cabinet, has just declared that he and his party have no problem with extending the negotiations "for another year." And why should they see any problem with it? On the occasion of Passover, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennet sent greetings to party members proudly boasting that in the past year – a year of which eight months had been devoted to negotiations with the Palestinians – “Settlement construction in Judea and Samaria had increased by 123 %”. And Housing Minister Uri Ariel, another of the same party’s senior ministers, will spend the Passover holiday as the guest of honor in a mass event designed to reestablish the settlement Chomesh in the Northern West Bank, which Ariel Sharon evacuated as part of the 2005 "Disengagement". Why, then, not continue the negotiations for another year, or for that matter for ten or twenty  years?

From the very launch of negotiations under Kerry’s auspices, most Israelis - and most Palestinians – did not entertain a real hope for actual results. The unknown  Palestinian who this week took up a gun and wore gray clothing and set up an ambush at the settler road near the village of Idna, was most likely among those who never regarded  negotiations as the means of liberating their people from Israeli occupation. It was Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi , who had gone over from a decades-long service as an IDF career officer to an  equally successful career in the Israel Police Intelligence Wing, who passed there in his car and was shot and killed in the ambush , becoming the latest  victim of the ongoing conflict which had already claimed very many lives ever since the days of Ottoman rule in this country.

Mizrahi had not been on military or police duty. He was going in his private car,  with his wife and five children , on the way to Passover Seder with his in-laws. Like many Israelis for whom the Passover Seder is one of the major family events of the year. "A terrorist attack on the way to the Seder" cried out the banner headlines. The Seder to which Mizrahi and his family were heading when the fatal shots were fired was to be held by his wife's parents, living in  Kiryat Arba.

Kiryat Arba is not just one more a community. It is not even one more Israeli settlement on the West Bank. Kiryat Arba is a symbol - the place where the entire settlement project began. Kiryat Arba is the place where , in the first year of occupation, the then Labor Party Cabinet caved in to Rabbi Moshe Levinger and his fellows, expropriated for their sake extensive Palestinian lands near Hebron and established there the first big settlement on the West Bank. There flourished the radical Religious-Nationalist ideology. From there it expanded into Gush Emunim, the “Block of the Faithful” which developed into the “Judea and Samaria Council" embracing dozens and then hundreds of settlements. And in Kiryat Arba itself the settlers live up to the present, including the parents of Baruch Mizrahi’s wife, and celebrate every year the Passover and read deep into the night the story of the ancient Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt and delivery from slavery. They do not draw from it any conclusion about their own present situation and their own sojourn in an armed enclave closely guarded by soldiers at the heart of an Occupied Territory .

The Israeli press did not pay much attention to the history and political role of Kiryat Arba in its extensive coverage of the attack in which Baruch Mizrahi was killed. Instead, the papers focused on the human aspects, the three year old boy who asked "Is Dad in Heaven now?" and the widow who wondered  "Who'll now make the kids laugh?" . What eye could stay dry when reading these painful human experiences, taking up whole pages in the mass circulation newspapers? None of sixty Palestinians killed by IDF gunfire during the past year, the year of the negotiations, had gotten the Israeli media to interview their widows and orphaned children . The maximum which they could expect was for the Israeli papers to correctly spell their names.

In the meeting which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held this week with Knesset Members from the Labor and Meretz parties, he said that the Palestinian Authority was ready to extend talks with Israel - but on the condition that it would not be negotiations for the sake of negotiations, but a real grappling with the concrete issues. In particular, the negotiations should  focus on the future borders between the existing State of Israel and the to-be-created State of Palestine, and of Prime Minister Netanyahu finally deigning to start drawing boundaries on the map. This would be a quite logical idea - assuming that Netanyahu was serious in what he said in the famous Bar-Ilan Speech and on several more occasions. One who agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state could logically be expected to indicate exactly where that  state is to be established, is it not so? Apparently, not .

The Sole Mediator?

Since the mid 1970’s, the United States has assumed a monopoly on mediation between Israelis and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. We have gotten used to this as an essential fact of life – though, to look at it objectively, this is quite a strange phenomenon. In no commercial dispute would the business partner of one of the parties to the dispute gain the status of an impartial arbiter.

The United States had one advantage, and one only, over any other available broker: the US was considered the only actor on the international arena with the ability to enforce an arbitration award on the State of Israel, its close ally. In marked contrast to mediators from Scandinavia, or the UN , or the EU – who had the option of shuttling back and forth between the parties, talking to Israelis and to Arabs, and formulating a proposed solution which they regarded as reasonable and fair – which would eventually join in the archive the  yellowed texts of dozens of earlier proposals by dozens of previous mediators. The United States was considered as being in quite a different category. After all, the U.S. had a proven ability to get the State of Israel out of an occupied territory.

In 1957, President Eisenhower got the IDF withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, with an openly displayed blatant pressure. That was prehistory, when Israel did not yet a have a firm political and military alliance with the U.S. and had not yet completed the construction of powerful levers within the American political system. Later on, the United States got Israel out of Sinai for the second time, in a more gradual and subtle process which began in 1974 by Henry Kissinger and ended in 1978 with Jimmy Carter. The price which Egypt paid in order to regain the Sinai was clearly evident: the biggest and most powerful country in the Arab World, which had been for decades a crucial ally of the Soviet Union, moved over to become as crucial an ally for the United States.

Syria was several times offered a similar deal, to regain the Israeli-occupied Golan in exchange for swearing fealty to Washington. Assad Senior and Assad Junior never rejected such approaches out of hand, but ultimately they never conclusively agreed to fundamentally change Syria’s international allegiance.  Thus, the Golan Heights remained in Israeli hands up to the present, except for the town of Quneitra which Kissinger passed to the Syrians as an appetizer in 1974. Nowadays, of course, no one can guess what kind of government would rule Syria in the future and what would be its international orientation.

With regard to the Palestinians, the experience of the past twenty years in general and of recent months in particular clearly indicates that the United States is either unwilling or unable to "deliver the goods" and facilitate the creation of an independent Palestinian state which would be a loyal Americans ally in the Middle East. It should be noted, of course, that in fact the Palestinians - at least, the leadership of the PLO and Fatah – have already in 1993 placed themselves deep into the United States’ pocket, in exchange for the minor gain of establishing a powerless Palestinian Authority in the shadow of continuing Israeli occupation .

Had the Americans been willing to offer Palestinians a full liberation from the yoke of occupation, they might have been able to penetrate deeper into the grassroots of Palestinian society, perhaps wean young Palestinians from the habit of regularly setting the Stars and Stripes flag on fire. But apparently, to generations of American policymakers this was not a consideration weighty enough to justify a confrontation with the government of Israel and its supporters on Capitol Hill...

Whatever the considerations and reasoning, the bottom line is quite clear. The U.S. government – whoever the President and Secretary of State might be – is clearly unable to offer the Palestinians what Kissinger and Carter provided to Egypt. And if so, then fallen and gone is its sole justification for being the sole mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. Another way will have to be found.

Some questions – and a few initial answers
- What are the chances that, after all,  John Kerry will succeed in patching up some deal which would allow the extension of the negotiations (or what passes under this name) until the end of the year? As the situation seems now, the chances are very low - but in our region everything is possible.

- And if after all negotiations are renewed, what are the chances that Kerry would also prove able to take advantage of the additional seven months in order to formulate a Framework Agreement, get the two parties to agree, transform it into a detailed Peace Agreement with a binding timetable for implementation and get it actually implemented on the ground? By all logical analysis, an even far smaller chance. It is much more likely that, even if negotiations do resume, they will continue sluggishly for a few useless months and finally collapse in the next crisis.

- What are the chances, should the efforts of John Kerry come to an  unequivocal and irreversible collapse, that the next US President will make a new try during his or her administration, which would include the symbolic date of fifty years of occupation in 2017? It is very difficult to know today who would win the Presidential elections in November 2016, of which party and under which program and policy. Logically, however, it can be assumed that whoever it would be would have no great enthusiasm about plunging again into this quagmire.

 - What are the chances that there would again be in Israel a peace-seeking government, which would make its own independent  peace initiative and make to the Palestinians an offer which the Palestinians could accept? As things look now, the chances are very low. The supporters of a daring peace initiative constitute a Left minority among the citizens of Israel. Most Israeli citizens are convinced that achieving peace is simply not possible. In the past, the citizens of Israel brought Yitzhak Rabin to power - and he was assassinated. They brought  Ehud Barak to power, who claimed to be the successor of Rabin - and proved unequivocally that he was not. And they put their trust in Ariel Sharon’s proposal to withdraw unilaterally - and the result was not especially successful. Another opportunity probably there would not be. Israeli citizens are unlikely to again bring to power a Prime Minister committed to making peace and/or giving up territory.

- On the other hand, what are the chances that, if under international pressure the Government of Israel is made to sign an agreement with the Palestinians, Israeli citizens would lend this fait accompli their support via a referendum or elections? For that, there is a reasonable chance, even a high one. All Israeli opinion polls indicate a majority willing to accept a peace agreement  involving the relinquishing of all or most of the territories occupied in 1967 - while at the same time expressing considerable skepticism about the feasibility of such an agreement  being achieved in reality. It is a very passive majority, a majority which would not lift a finger in order to promote peace, neither going out into the streets nor voting in elections for peace-seeking parties. But if an agreement was to be brought to Israel’s citizens as a fait accompli, there are good reasons to assume that only a Religious-Nationalist minority on the Right would seriously oppose it. To get there, of course, there has to be an external force able and willing to impose an agreement. And if not the Americans, who?

- The track on which the Palestinians embarked with President Mahmoud Abbas signing the documents for Palestinian accession to fifteen international conventions leads to a frontal collision with the government of Israel - but in a different way from what we have known before. The confrontation would take place primarily in the international arena, accompanied by Popular Resistance on the ground – i.e., demonstrations of Palestinians to tangle with the army and settlers, with the army opposing them with tear gas and sometimes with live ammunition, and the Palestinians responding with stones and sometimes Molotov cocktails. But would it be possible to prevent a repetition of what happened in 2000-2001, a fast escalation towards mass bloodshed on both sides?

- International diplomacy would be at the spearhead of Palestinian effort – an attempt to make the State of Palestine into a firm fact in International Law, in the hope that eventually it will become such on the ground as well. Clashes in the international diplomatic arena would likely culminate with an appeal to the International Criminal Court, filing lawsuits against Israeli officers for acts committed in the Palestinian territories, and against the leaders of the settlement project whose activities violate International Law. And the Palestinian doomsday weapon would be the threat – which might turn out to be  more than a threat – of disbanding the Palestinian Authority and "handing over the keys" to Israel, and thus imposing on the State of Israel the financial and administrative burden of daily running the residents' lives, removing the fig leaf of "Palestinian Self-Government" and facing Israel with the choice withdrawing from the territory or annexing it granting civil rights to its residents.

- Concurrently, there can be expected all kinds of informal initiatives and pressures worldwide. The BDS campaign would expand, its proponents calling  economic boycott and cultural boycott and academic boycott and any other boycott on Israel and on all things Israeli. At the same time there would be  more mainstream groups - possibly including respectable businesses and  firms in European and other countries – taking initiatives against the settlements and those linked with the settlement project . The European Union may finally take the long-contemplated step of systematically marking all settlement products coming into the European market, in order to alert and warn customers – possibly followed by more drastic EU measures . And of the Government of the United States, there might be expected at least what is known as "benign neglect" – i.e. watching from the sidelines all these moves and refraining from blocking them via the levers at its disposal on the international arena.

- Would all these cumulative pressures be sufficient to bring about, in the foreseeable future, an end to the occupation and an IDF withdrawal from the occupied territories and the signing of a Peace Agreement between the existing State of Israel and the to-be-created State of Palestine?

- Or are we are likely to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Occupation in 2017,  and the Seventy-Fifth in 2042, and perhaps also its Centennial in 2067? Of course, it can be assumed that meanwhile it would no longer be called "occupation" and there will be no further pretence that it is “temporary”. Temporary occupation will have become permanent Apartheid, though presumably somebody will invent an original Hebrew word for “Apartheid”. If there is nobody to save Israel from itself, this situation would  persist as long as Israel has a military superiority in the Middle East and as long as the United States dominates the world and is able and willing to provide support for Israel and for Israel’s policies. History shows that no military hegemony, regional or global, lasts for ever.

- Should  the efforts of all of us be conditional upon the chances of success? Absolutely not. All of us - Palestinians under occupation, peace seekers and opponents of the occupation inside Israel, and people  who care anywhere in the world will do, must do all we can, no matter what. There is no other choice.

"What now?" - faced with the diplomatic failures, the Meretz Anti-Occupation Forum invites you to a panel discussion:

Talks with the Palestinians failed, as expected. Israel imposed sanctions on the Palestinian Authority. Are we on the brink of conflict ? Is there any chance of a  return to the negotiating table? Would that be worthwhile? How should the Israeli Peace Camp deal with the new situation? How do we face international pressures and calls for a boycott of Israel? Might this be the time to stop talking about  the struggle against the Occupation and begin talking about  a war on Apartheid?

Wednesday, April 23, at 19:00 ( Please be on time! ) at the EPGB Radio Pub,
7 Shadal Street, Tel Aviv.

Opening remarks:
Meretz Party Leader, MK Zahava Gal’on
Avi Issacharoff – Senior commentator, Walla & Times of Israel
Yossi Gurvitz - Journalist and blogger (+972 Magazine)
 Yifat Solel – Chair, Meretz Anti-Occupation Forum
Mossi Raz


Saturday, April 5, 2014

The danger of peace has receded.

It seems that that is it. The most expected is what really happened. The very many sceptics were right again. The incorrigible optimists had cultivated some hope in vain. On yesterday's evening news an unidentified senior member of the Likud Party was quoted as saying: "The danger of peace has receded."

What was called "negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians"  has apparently breathed its last, and  the offer to release Pollard failed to do its magic. The magician's hat contains no further rabbits, and the career of Secretary of State John Kerry is not going to be crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

Nor will there be in the history books a big chapter about Kerry and his name will not be remembered as the one who succeeded to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He will have to rest content with a footnote at the side of all the many mediators who tried before him. At the side of Senator George Mitchell who succeeded in North Ireland and failed utterly in the Middle East, and before him James Baker who cut off contact in a farewell speech where he announced for the attention of the government of Israel the phone number of the White House, and before him Henry Kissinger who achieved interim agreements and took very much care not to touch the real problems, and before him the Swedish Gunnar Jarring who spent years for a futile going to and fro before the Americans asserted the monopoly over mediation, and even much earlier Count Folke Bernadotte who in 1948 paid with his life for asking of  the young State of Israel some concessions which the Lehi underground didn't like.

This time, at least, the process which led to the final collapse was quite visible and open for all to see. Unlike after the collapse of Camp David in 2000 we are spared the tiring and endless debate of what happened in closed rooms and who offered what and who refused it and where the "generous offers" really that generous.

It is difficult to argue with the facts. The government of Israel obliged itself to release on March 29,  2014 the last 14 of 104 Palestinian prisoners  it had committed to set free. The Palestinians in exchange committed themselves not to seek recognition in international institutions until the end of the time set for negotiations. In actuality the government of Israel took a formal decision to break its obligation and not to release those 14. To this was added the publication of building tenders for 700 housing units for Jewish Israelis in East Jerusalem.

In the past, the Palestinians reluctantly restrained themselves about settlement projects which were intended to "counterbalance" the release of prisoners. But there was no reason in the world to pass in silence a settlement project which was adding insult to injury; a settlement project on top of non-release of prisoners. 

President Mahmoud Abbas reacted by sending applications to join 15 international institutions and treaties, so as to further cement the existence the State of Palestine as a recognized entity in international law - even if it does not yet exist as a sovereign state on the ground. It is in fact a long-established Israeli form of behaviour of facing the other side with accomplished facts - but Israeli decision makers don't like so much to be on the receiving side.

As could have been expected the Americans make every  effort not not to take a position in the blame game dividing responsibility equally among Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides have resorted to "unhelpful" measures, both leaders have "avoided taking difficult decisions". Just like in earlier and more hopeful stages John Kerry took care to make equal compliments to Netanyahu and Abbas about their "seriousness and determination to go forward." A complete symmetry. Is it justified?

There is a reason to suppose that Mahmoud Abbas did want to reach an agreement. After sharp haggling about the terms, undoubtedly - but he had many good reasons for wanting to be remembered as the one who liberated his people from an occupation regime and brought them statehood. But did Benyamin Netanyahu ever really want to reach an agreement? To be remembered as the right-wing leader who put an end to a dream of ruling over the Biblical Homeland and to Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria? Was it his dream to get Israel out of the occupied territories, even had the Palestinians been willing to sing with a great chorus the mantra "Jewish State, Jewish State, Jewish State"?

Since he made the Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, a great crowd of commentators insisting upon dreaming again and again of Netanyahu crossing the Rubicon, becoming a man of peace, engaging in head-on confrontation with the zealots in his party and his coalition, extending his hand to the Palestinians and to the Israeli left. Learned articles set out very detailed scenarios and counted fingers in the Knesset towards fateful decisions. But there is a lot of reason to doubt whether Netanyahu's real aspirations ever went further than an end to the negotiations without an agreement and with the blame put on the Palestinians.

Could it have ended differently?

Where Kerry's efforts foredoomed in advance to inevitable failure, or was there a moment where a real chance for success was missed? If at all, one specific moment can be pointed at: afternoon of Saturday, February 1st, 2014, when Secretary of State John Kerry got up to speak at the International Security Conference at Munich, and made a sharp and firm warning:

(…) Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace. The fact is the status quo will change if there is failure. So everybody has a stake in trying to find the pathway to success. For Israel, the stakes are  enormously high. Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community? What happens to the Arab Peace Initiative if this fails? Does it disappear? Are we going to then see militancy? Will we see violence? What happens for Israel’s capacity to be the Israel it is today – a democratic state with the particular special Jewish character that is a central part of the narrative and of the future? What happens to that when you have a bi-national structure and people demanding rights on different terms? We all have a powerful, powerful interest in resolving this conflict. Everywhere I go in the world, wherever I go – I promise you, no exaggeration, the Far East, Africa, Latin America – one of the first questions out of the mouths of a foreign minister or a prime minister or a president is, “Can’t you guys do something to help bring an end to this conflict between Palestinians and Israelis?” (…) You see there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign of Israel that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that? (…)

The word "boycott" out of the Secretary of State's mouth aroused in Israel an outburst of panic, especially among business people whose firms very much depend on trade with Europe. In the papers banner headlines read "Kerry threatens boycott" and under it was written: Is this how the European boycott will look like?

Worrying scenarios popped up about what the economy of Israel might face in case of boycott. The names of companies and financial institutions were mentioned from various European countries which already had taken steps against Israeli business partners. For a moment it looked as if Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama found in 'bad cop Europe' a way to by-pass AIPAC, a creative way to neutralize the power of the Israeli government's lobby on Capitol Hill and fundamentally change the rules of the decades-old game.

What would have happened if on that particular week John Kerry would have taken the bull by the horns, put on the table with no further delay his overdue "framework agreement", demanding an immediate and unequivocal Yes or No answer? We will never know.

Fact is that in reality Kerry did exactly the opposite, delayed and delayed again and thereby eroded the deterrence which he had for a moment created. He met several times with Netanyahu,  spoke to him in a conciliatory way and softened the draft of the framework agreement, putting in it changes which Netanyahu liked, and the Palestinians didn't. From then on Kerry was more and more treated as a paper tiger...

So what is going to happen now? Kerry himself said it quite accurately on that day in Munich.

"Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace. The fact is the status quo will change. For Israel, the stakes are  enormously high, whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community? What happens to the Arab Peace Initiative if this fails? Does it disappear? Are we going to then see militancy? Will we see violence? What happens for Israel’s capacity to be the Israel it is today – a democratic state with the particular special Jewish character that is a central part of the narrative and of the future? What happens to that when you have a bi-national structure and people demanding rights on different terms. there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign of Israel that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?"

Two months ago these words were intended as warning. Now they have  become a realistic assessment of what to expect.

As Fatah's Jibril Rayyoub said in an interview in the Sof Shavua Israeli weekly: "The Israelis can't continue to eat honey while we eat shit. Either we both eat honey, or both eat shit. You decide what we will eat."