A Tragedy of Errors: U.S. Incompetence in Israel-Palestine Talks, Part II

An edited version of this piece appeared at LobeLog. If you missed Part I, check it out here.

In part one of this piece, I began sketching the picture that emerges from the words of U.S. diplomats to an Israeli reporter. There’s

As Abbas and Obama grimly cast their eyes down, Bibi savors a triumph over hope and peace.

As Abbas and Obama grimly cast their eyes down, Bibi savors a triumph over hope and peace.

more here, and the image that emerges is one where the United States is ultimately the responsible party for the failure of not only this round of peace talks, but one after another of them. I’ll start here by completing the analysis of what was reported in YNet.

On the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” the group of anonymous U.S. diplomats told Israeli reporter Nahum Barnea: “We couldn’t understand why it bothered him (Abbas) so much. For us, the Americans, the Jewish identity of Israel is obvious. …The more Israel hardened its demands, the more the Palestinian refusal deepened. Israel made this into a huge deal – a position that wouldn’t change under any circumstances. The Palestinians came to the conclusion that Israel was pulling a nasty trick on them. They suspected there was an effort to get from them approval of the Zionist narrative.”

Seeing this in print really did shock me. There were three objections to this idea from the Palestinians. They were there all along, yet the U.S. speakers seem aware of only one of them. That one is the validation of the Zionist narrative over the Palestinian. The other two were that such recognition (a thing unheard of in international relations, one hastens to add, and something which Israel demands only from the Palestinians and no one else) would necessarily give a Palestinian stamp of approval to discrimination against non-Jews in Israel, most of whom are Palestinian; and that it would, by definition, preclude the question of the return of Palestinian refugees, a matter Abbas may be resigned to, but which he wants to deal with in negotiations in the hope that some redress for the refugees can be settled upon. Continue reading

A Tragedy of Errors: U.S. Incompetence in Israel-Palestine Talks, Part I

An edited version of this piece appeared at LobeLog.

On May 2 Israel’s most widely read newspaper, Yediot Ahoronot, published an article that blows the lid off of the failure of United 4688994752_853e3d2f46_bStates Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s best known reporters, got several U.S. officials who were involved with the talks to open up to him, anonymously, about what happened.

Barnea says that the version the U.S. officials present “… is fundamentally different to (sic) the one presented by Israeli officials.” The implication from Barnea, and the way most will read the U.S. revelations, is that it was basically Israel’s fault that the talks failed. But a more sober and critical reading of what these officials say paints a different picture than the ones that the Israeli government, Barnea, or most of the initial reactions do.

In fact, what comes out is that Israel was not the primary culprit here. As has long been the case, the main reason for the failure of talks was and is the United States.

Combining amazing ignorance not only of the Palestinians but also of Israel and its politics, with a hint of anti-Semitism and a contemptuous attitude toward the Palestinians, tossing in some willful blindness to the realities on the ground and in the offices of politicians, the United States initiated a process that put the final nail in the two-state solution as it has been understood for years. Some, myself included, might consider that a good thing, as it raises the opportunity for re-thinking all the options, including other ways to conceive of two states (which I favor), as well as one state ideas. But the way this has come about has strengthened hard-liners in Israel, made the United States Congress even more myopic in its blind support for Israel and made it less likely that there will ever be a negotiated, rather than a violent, resolution to this conflict. In any case, this latest episode has quite likely kicked any resolution even farther into the future than it already was. Continue reading