Secretary of State John Kerry picked former President Bill Clinton’s chief Mideast negotiator 62-year-old Martin Indyk to head up the latest round of Israel-Palestinian peace talks. Unlike Indyk’s last fiasco in 2000 that resulted in a new guerrilla war, sending waves of Hamas suicide bombings into Israel, the situation is far more treacherous today. In the waning days of the Clinton Administration, Clinton tried to pull a rabbit out of his hat to shift public attention away from the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal that practically drove him from the Oval Office. Racked by his own controversies, Obama now tries the same playbook, except the world changed Sept. 11 when Osama bin Laden flew jetliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. When former President George W. Bush took the baton Jan. 20, 2001, it didn’t take long for a new foreign policy.
Sept. 11 changed the relationship between Israel and the United States. Now engaged in what former Commentary Magazine Editor Norman Podhoretz called “WW III,” the U.S. could no longer keep alliances with terrorists, especially the late Palestine Liberation Chairman Yasser Arafat. Bush got it right, seeing for the first time Palestinians’ role in terrorism. He saw clearly Palestinians dancing in the streets celebrating Sept. 11. Kerry can’t go back to the old ways of doing business: Pushing Israel into making unilateral concessions to appease the Arab World. Of equal import to Sept. 11, was a little discussed event that took place June 7, 2007, when Hamas—a State Department labeled terror organization—evicted the PLO from the Gaza Strip, splitting the Palestinian people into two factions: Those in the West Bank seeking peace and those in Gaza seeking war.
Kerry now commissions Indyk to negotiate a peace deal with only half the Palestinian people. While there’s nothing wrong seeking a peace deal, there’s something very wrong with not dealing with reality, raising expectations and possibly causing a new Mideast war, just like Clinton and Indyk did 13 years ago. Kerry and Indyk need to explain how they plan to bypass 52-year-old Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas. When the State Department announces how many trips Kerry’s made to the Palestinian territories, they need to admit he hasn’t visited Haniyeh in Gaza City. Meeting only with 79-years West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas isn’t enough to pull off a peace deal with Israel. As long Palestinians remain divided, Hamas will never accept any peace deal with Israel, just like they’ve rejected every agreement since founded in 1987 by the late blind, quadraplegic Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Before Sept. 11, the old narrative was the media promoting poor Palestinians, treated so shabbily by Israel. After Sept. 11, the Bush doctrine prevented the State Department from dealing with Arafat and PLO because of their involvement with terrorism. Bush didn’t forget Palestinians celebrating after Sept. 11. When Kerry and Indyk provide a peace framework, they need to weight all concessions against what works with Israeli national security. When sitting down at the peace table, Kerry and Indyk need to let Palestinians know that they can’t dictate the terms of a peace agreement unilaterally. When Clinton and Indyk went through the same thing in 2000, they weren’t clear with Arafat that Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups won’t dictate the terms of a peace deal. When Abbas starts talking of what’s acceptable to Hamas, the U.S. must remind Abass that he’s ignored Hamas.
When Israel-Palestinian peace talks resume, Palestinians always demand a return to the pre-1967 borders. Israeli officials need to point out that if Palestinians wish a return to the pre-1967 borders, then land must be officially returned to Egypt, Jordan and Syria. What they choose to do with the land is anyone’s guess. Palestinians need to know that neither Egypt, Jordan nor Syria has intentions of ceding territory to Palestinians. Before Israel seized Jordan’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Egypt’s Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights, Palestinians had no land for a future state. Palestinians need to stop talking about “occupied territories,” and acknowledge that for peace Israel should forfeit some of its 1967 spoils to assure a future Palestinian State.
New Mideast peace talks must address how the PLO intends to deal with Hamas in Gaza. Since neither the PLO nor Hamas can reach any sovereignty arrangement, it’s conceivable that Abbas can negotiate a unilateral peace deal with Israel that bypasses Hamas. Abbas and Erekat can no longer threaten Israel with war if they can’t win enough concessions from Israel. When Arafat and Erekat walked away from Camp David in 2000, they started a futile terrorist war against Israel, robbing Palestinians of a future homeland. Instead of making more threats, Palestinians must prove how they intend to reign-in Hamas and stop the over 50-years of bloodletting. Getting 64-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to play ball won’t be easy. Abbas and Erekat must put on their charming selves to win more concessions and set the parameters for a future Palestinian state.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.