Many Israelis, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dismissed US Secretary of State John Kerry’s lengthy speech Wednesday about his vision for Middle East peace as a flawed and failed effort to land a parting shot at Israel.
Critics pointed out that Kerry droned on disproportionally on Israeli settlements while minimizing Palestinians terrorism, incitement and glorification of violence. They wondered why he dedicated his last major speech to an elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal while the rest of the Middle East is in utter turmoil, with hundreds of thousands being butchered in Syria.
Critics further noted that Kerry held his speech less than a month before a new administration with a very different worldview is set to be sworn in, and that all his efforts to establish a framework for future negotiations are therefore utterly meaningless (although, in all fairness, Bill Clinton in 2000 also issued his parameters merely three weeks before he was replaced by a new president from the other side of the aisle).
It is true that Kerry’s six “principles” were not very innovative. In their initial reactions to the speech, both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbasrefused to give an inch, clinging to their respective positions, unwilling to make any compromises to please Mr. Kerry.
The “Kerry Parameters,” as they might become known one day, do not attempt to prejudge or impose any outcome but are merely meant as a “possible basis for serious negotiations when the parties are ready,” he asserted.
Netanyahu took no comfort in Kerry’s pledge not to seek further UN action against Israel.
These parameters, the prime minister fears, could be adopted by the upcoming international peace conference in Paris, set for January 15, and then France or Sweden might propose a resolution based on it to the Security Council.
It is therefore worthwhile to take a closer look at Kerry’s six principles and examine how they differ from the Clinton parameters — which 16 years ago both Israelis and Palestinians accepted, albeit with reservations — and what the two sides make of them today.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, has never publicly agreed to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 lines.
Netanyahu has accepted, in principle, a two-state solution, but adamantly refuses to talk about where he would draw the border between Israel and a future Palestine.
Citing the 1947 UN partition plan, Kerry endorsed Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize the principle of two states for two peoples — “one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.”
Netanyahu on Wednesday lambasted Kerry for failing to realize that the “persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state remains the core of the conflict.” If the world truly wanted to promote peace, it should move to eradicate the Palestinians’ rejection of Israel as a Jewish state, he exclaimed, “and I can only express my regret and say that it’s a shame that Secretary Kerry does not see this simple truth.”
The Palestinians have so far adamantly refused to acquiesce to Netanyahu’s demand, and there are no indications that Kerry’s speech will change that.
In calling for a future Palestinian state to be “non-militarized,” Kerry supported Netanyahu’s second key demand, after the Jewish state recognition. “Everyone understands that no Israeli government can ever accept an agreement that does not satisfy its security needs or that risk creating an enduring security threat like Gaza transferred to the West Bank,” Kerry said. “And Israel must be able to defend itself effectively, including against terrorism and other regional threats.”
The question of security has long been considered the most easy to resolve, though the last rounds of negotiations, under Kerry, revealed deep disagreements between Abbas and Netanyahu regarding what troops would be stationed where and for how long. The prime minister rejects any arrangement that would not include a permanent Israeli military presence in the West Bank, a position anathema to the Palestinians.
The Way to Peace: Israeli Victory, Palestinian Defeat: 'The Futility Of Israeli Concessions'
The Oslo exercise showed the futility of Israeli concessions to Palestinians when the latter fail to live up to their obligations. By signaling Israeli weakness, Oslo made a bad situation worse. What is conventionally called the "peace process" would more accurately be dubbed the "war process."
From Israel's perspective, seven years of Oslo appeasement, 1993-2000, undid 45 years of successful deterrence; then, six years of unilateral withdrawals, 2000-06, further buried deterrence. The decade since 2006 has witnessed no major changes.
When Palestinians still lived under direct Israeli control before Oslo, acceptance of Israel had increased over time even as political violence diminished. Residents of the West Bank and Gaza could travel locally without checkpoints and access work sites within Israel. They benefited from the rule of law and an economy that more than quadrupled without depending on foreign aid. Functioning schools and hospitals emerged, as did several universities.
Oslo led not to the hoped-for end of conflict but inflamed Palestinian ambitions to eliminate the Jewish state. As Palestinian rage spiraled upward, more Israelis were murdered in the five years post-Oslo than in the fifteen years preceding it. Rabble-rousing speech and violent actions soared - and continue unabated 23 years later. Moreover, Palestinian delegitimization efforts cost Israel internationally as the left turned against it, spawning such anti-Zionist novelties as the UN World Conference against Racism in Durban and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Why did things go so wrong in what seemed so promising an agreement?
Moral responsibility for the collapse of Oslo lies solely with Yasir Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the rest of the Palestinian Authority leadership. They pretended to abandon rejectionism and accept Israel's existence but, in fact, sought Israel's elimination in new, more sophisticated ways, replacing force with delegitimization.
This said, the Israelis made a profound mistake, having entered the Oslo process with a false premise. Yitzhak Rabin often summed up this error in the phrase "You don't make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies." In other words, he expected war to be concluded through goodwill, conciliation, mediation, flexibility, restraint, generosity, and compromise, topped off with signatures on official documents. In this spirit, his government and all its successors agreed to a wide array of concessions, even to the point of permitting a Palestinian militia, always hoping the Palestinians would reciprocate by accepting the Jewish state.
They never did. To the contrary, Israeli compromises aggravated Palestinian hostility. Each gesture further radicalized, exhilarated, and mobilized the Palestinian body politic. Israeli efforts to "make peace" were received as signs of demoralization and weakness. "Painful concessions" reduced the Palestinian awe of Israel, made the Jewish state appear vulnerable, and inspired irredentist dreams of annihilation.
This brings us to the key concept of my approach, which is victory, or imposing one's will on the enemy, compelling him through loss to give up his war ambitions. Wars end, the historical record shows, not through goodwill but through defeat. He who does not win loses. Wars usually end when failure causes one side to despair, when that side has abandoned its war aims and accepted defeat, and when that defeat has exhausted its will to fight. Conversely, so long as both combatants still hope to achieve their war objectives, fighting either goes on or it potentially will resume.
Trouble is, none of these plans addresses the need to break the Palestinian will to fight. They all manage the conflict without resolving it. They all seek to finesse victory with a gimmick. Just as the Oslo negotiations failed, so too will every other scheme that sidesteps the hard work of winning.
This historical pattern implies that Israel has just one option to win Palestinian acceptance: a return to its old policy of deterrence, punishing Palestinians when they aggress. Deterrence amounts to more than tough tactics, which every Israeli government pursues; it requires systemic policies that encourage Palestinians to accept Israel and discourage rejectionism. It requires a long-term strategy that promotes a change of heart.
The goal here is not Palestinian love of Zion, but closing down the apparatus of war: shuttering suicide factories, removing the demonization of Jews and Israel, recognizing Jewish ties to Jerusalem, and "normalizing" relations with Israelis. Palestinian acceptance of Israel will be achieved when, over a protracted period and with complete consistency, the violence ends, replaced by sharply worded démarches and letters to the editor. Symbolically, the conflict will be over when Jews living in Hebron (in the West Bank) have no more need for security than Palestinians living in Nazareth (in Israel).
Syria’s army said Thursday it would halt all military operations from midnight, under a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, with the opposition National Coalition announcing support for the agreement.
Earlier, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced the deal, saying the Syrian regime and “main forces of the armed opposition” had signed on.
It added that the halt excluded combat against the Islamic State group and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra Front, now rebranded the Fateh al-Sham Front.
He said key rebel groups including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam factions had signed the ceasefire deal, though there was no immediate confirmation from rebel officials.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday made the bombshell claim that he has “confirmed evidence” that U.S.-led coalition forces provided support to terrorist groups in Syria, including ISIS.
Erdogan reportedly told reporters during a press conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara:
“They were accusing us of supporting Daesh [Islamic State].”
“Now they give support to terrorist groups including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It's very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos.”
In addition to ISIS, Erdogan claimed U.S.-led coalition forces have also provided support to the Kurdish militant groups YPG and PYD, according to Reuters.
U.S.-led coalition forces have actively helped Syrian rebels battling Bashar al-Assad, but have never openly assisted ISIS or other terrorist groups. Erdogan apparently did not release the “evidence” he purports to have.
However, the Obama administration has faced harsh criticism amid numerous reports that U.S. weapons were ending up in the hands of ISIS fighters.