john kerry

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Another excellent piece of analytical work from Jonathon Cook – unraveling the rhetoric to reveal the stone-cold logic behind John Kerry’s latest proposal for ‘economic peace’ for Israel/Palestine.

By focusing on economic development, Kerry directs attention away from the real issue – the Occupation! At the same time, if the Palestinian leadership balks at the proposal for economic aid they will be held responsible (once again) for scuttling the peace process. It’s a genuine lose-lose situation for the Palestinians.

Father Dave

Jonathon Cook

Jonathon Cook

source: mondoweiss.net…

Kerry’s plan – Palestinians to be cast as fall guys . . . again

by Jonathon Cook

Under heavy pressure from the US, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has paid grudging lip service over the past four years to the goal of Palestinian statehood. But his real agenda was always transparent: not statehood, but what he termed “economic peace”.

Ordinary Palestinians, in Netanyahu’s view, can be pacified with crumbs from the master’s table: fewer checkpoints, extra jobs and trading opportunities, and a gradual, if limited, improvement in living standards. All of this buys time for Israel to expand the settlements, cementing its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

After 20 years of pursuing Palestinian statehood implied in the Oslo Accords, the US indicated last week it was switching horses. It appears to be adopting Netanyahu’s model of “economic peace”.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, flanked by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, revealed an economic programme for getting peace talks on track.

Some 300 Israeli and Palestinian business people were on board, he said, and would invest heavily in the Palestinian economy in a venture that was “bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything since the Oslo accords”.

No more details were forthcoming, except that it will be overseen by Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister who has been the Quartet representative, the international community’s “man in Jerusalem”, since 2007.

He is a strange choice indeed, given that the Palestinian leadership has publicly dismissed him as “Israel’s defence attorney” and privately argued — as revealed in the Palestine Papers leaked in 2011 — that he advocates “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”.

Kerry’s claims for his programme were grand yet vague. Some $4 billion in private investment over three years would boost the Palestinian economy by 50 per cent; agricultural production and tourism would triple; unemployment fall by two-thirds; wages rise by 40 per cent; and 100,000 homes would be built.

But the proposal left few impressed, and for good reason.

Kerry is simply repackaging the task Blair was entrusted with six years ago. His job has been to develop the Palestinian economy and build up Palestinian institutions in preparation for eventual statehood, so far to little effect.

As David Horovitz, editor of the right wing Times of Israel newspaper, scoffed: “If there was $4 billion to be had in private investment in the Palestinian economy, you can rest assured that Tony Blair would have found it.”

Or seen another way, the Palestinian economy’s problem is not a lack of investment; it is a lack of viable opportunities for investment.
Palestinians have no control over their borders, airspace, radio frequencies, water and other natural resources, not even over the currency or internal movement of goods and people. Everything depends on Israel’s good will. And few investors will be prepared to bet on that. Israel has repeatedly shown itself more than ready to crush the PA’s finances by, for example, withholding Palestinian tax revenues it collects and is mandated to pass on.

Blair’s role has been heavily criticised because his narrow focus on economic development has not only failed to foster a climate conducive to talks but has served as cover for Israel and Washington’s inaction on Palestinian statehood. Instead of rethinking Blair’s failed mandate, Kerry appears set on perpetuating and expanding it.

Abdallah Abdallah, a senior Fatah official, summed up the Palestinian response: “We are not animals that only want food. We are a people struggling for freedom”.

Israel, meanwhile, is only too ready to push Kerry down this hopeless path.

From Israel’s perspective, the US plan usefully distracts attention from the Arab Peace Initiative, the Arab states’ renewed offer last month of full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from most of the occupied territories.

Netanyahu, worried the offer might corner him into serious talks, has responded with stony silence. At the same time, Yair Lapid, the supposedly centrist finance minister who was originally promoted by the West as a peacemaker, has squashed the idea of a deal with the Palestinians as unrealistic. He told the New York Times last month that he supported expanding the settlements.

Israel, it seems, hopes that the Palestinian Authority, now permanently mired in financial crisis, can be arm-twisted with promises of billions of dollars in sweeteners. According to Palestinian sources, Abbas is facing intense pressure from the US, with the Kerry plan intended to leverage him into dropping his condition that Israel freeze settlement growth before negotiations restart.

Israel is keen to win that concession. Despite reports that Netanyahu has quietly promised the Americans he will avoid embarrassing them for the next few weeks with announcements of settlement building, a rash of projects is in the pipeline.

At the weekend, media reports disclosed a plan for 300 new homes in East Jerusalem, while nearly 800 more are to be released for sale. Several settlement outposts established without authorisation from the Israeli government are expected to be made legal retrospectively, including hundreds of homes in Eli, near Ramallah.

Reuters reported yesterday that Kerry expects a decision on restarting peace talks within two weeks – or, his officials say, he will walk away from the peace process. He told a meeting of the American Jewish Committee the same day: “If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.”

For Netanyahu, such threats are hollow. If the US absents itself from the conflict, Israel will simply be left with a freer hand to intensify its subjugation of the Palestinians and the theft of their land.

Even though much more is at stake for the Palestinians, the PA has so far been quietly dismissive of the Kerry plan. It has stated it will not make “political concessions in exchange for economic benefits” – a diplomatic way of saying it will not be bribed to sell out on statehood.

But the real danger for the Palestinians, as they remember only too well from the 2000 Camp David talks, is that they are being set up as the fall guy. Should they refuse to sign up to the latest version of economic peace, Israel and the US will be only too ready to blame them for their intransigence.

This is win-win for Netanyahu, and another moment of disastrous slippage in the diplomatic process for the Palestinians.

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Richard Falk has never been one to pull punches. He simply states what everybody involved in the so-called ‘peace process’ has always suspected – that the ‘two-state solution’ has been dead in the water for many years. 

It’s hard to know whether John Kerry really believes his efforts will make a difference. Certainly Mahmoud Abbas must no better. Meanwhile, as they play out their charade, the Palestinian people continue to pay the price.

Father Dave

Ricahrd Falk

Richard Falk

source: www.dailystar.com…

Falk: Two-state solution presently obsolete

BEIRUT: Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the U.N. Human Rights Council, Thursday called the two-state solution “presently obsolete.”

Falk, who has drawn controversy in the past for his criticism of Israeli policies, was delivering the annual Constantine Zurayk Lecture at the American University of Beirut, speaking on the topic “Rethinking the Future of Palestine: Beyond the Two State Consensus.”

Falk did not completely rule out the two-state solution, saying, “Perhaps in the future it will again become a plausible political project.”

But for now Falk said U.S. President Barack Obama’s model of a two-state solution “continues the global mirage of a negotiation … is essentially a bridge to nowhere,” adding that “no image of an end-game solution at this time is possible as a viable political project.”

Since 2005, he has been the chair of the Board at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and taught at Princeton University for 40 years.

In the wake of the June 1967 war, Falk said, the situation can be characterized as one in which the Palestinians have lost, and the Israelis have gained.

“And they [the Israelis] have been able to do that behind the mirage that a two-state solution was in the cards.”

Using South Africa as an example, he highlighted the need to satisfy a number of political preconditions before a solution becomes a realistic possibility.

Saying that “conditions for a just peace do not presently exist,” Falk also noted, “I realize it’s discouraging to emphasize the prematurity of proposing a solution after 65 years.”

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Did anyone really expect Kerry to achieve anything (apart from Kerry himself perhaps)?

The ‘peace process’ has been accurately caricatured as two persons negotiating over how to divide up a pizza while one party is eating the pizza. The recent demand from the Palestinian side – that before negotiations can be restarted Israel outlines their vision for a two-state solution – is entirely reasonable. In the terms of the pizza analogy, they haven’t even demanded that the other party stop eating but only that they outline their plan to stop eating!

Israel refuses to offer any outline of their own vision for a future Palestinian state, and this is obviously because they don’t have one! Kerry plays along with the Israeli charade and expects the Palestinians to come on board by offering them a few economic incentives. How insulting!

It seems that Kerry has adopted the Zionist mindset wherein Arabs are not seen as being fully human. Kerry throws a few crumbs and expects the Palestinians to scamper up and sit obediently at his feet. No. America has done its dash as a potential broker for peace between Israel and Palestine. 

Father Dave

John Kerry

John Kerry

source: www.globalpost.com…

Kerry fails to secure Palestinian talks in Israel, Israeli official says

US Secretary of State John Kerry promised “constructive talks” between Israel and Palestine, but both sides say that’s not happening anytime soon.

Just a few days ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a promising trip to Israel to rekindle Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

By Tuesday, Kerry was already announcing he had held “very constructive talks” with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, hopefully to pave the way one day for the two sides to talk directly with each other.

“Each of them made very serious and well-considered, constructive suggestions with respect to what the road forward might look like,” Kerry told reporters on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, his attempt at peace talks appears to have floundered so far. A senior Israeli official told the country’s media they weren’t budging.

“There will be no response to any demand where the purpose [of the demand] is to supply appease [sic.] the Palestinians and make them come to the table,” an unnamed Israeli senior official told Ynet.

“Ministers are unanimous over the decision of not giving in to any pre-condition. They present conditions in order to make the process of renewing direct talks difficult. There will be no gestures, especially not land withdrawals,” the anonymous source added.

The reports came hours after Palestinians said they would only negotiate peace in exchange for “a clear formula” concerning borders and the release of detainees in Israeli jails, the Times of Israel reported.

Ha’aretz’s diplomacy correspondent pointedly writes: “A senior Israeli official, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject, expressed considerable skepticism regarding Kerry’s steps, and made cynical, slightly scornful comments regarding his attitude. ‘Kerry believes that he can bring about the solution, the treaty and the salvation,’ he said. ‘He thinks that the conflict is primarily over territory … and that is wrong.'”

The bad news came as President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, Philip Gordon, is reportedly carrying out an intense series of under-the-radar meetings with high-level Israeli government officials. And it’s 10 days before a planned visit to the country by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

GlobalPost’s senior correspondent in Israel, Noga Tarnopolsky, says some skepticism is not surprising.

“There does seem to be fear in Jerusalem that Kerry somehow ‘misunderstands’ the principles at stake, and is trying to push a territorial and security-based solution,” she said.

Washington’s top diplomat is seen as seeking pragmatic steps forward “without taking into account issues important to the Israeli government that are much harder to quantify,” she said, “such as the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish homeland and the abandonment of the Palestinian demand for their refugees’ right of return.”

However, that’s not so clear cut, she explained.

Just this week Tsippi Livni, the justice minister who’s in charge of negotiations on the Israeli side, said recognition of Israel as a Jewish homeland is not a necessary precondition for negotiations.

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The real issue here is not whether Turkey is relevant to the ‘peace process’ but whether Kerry is!

America no longer has any credibility left as a broker for peace. Obama’s visit confirmed his complete alignment with the values of the Israeli Occupation.

The other character who is becoming largely irrelevant is Abbas. It’s time he stepped quietly aside for someone who will truly represent the hopes of his people.

Father Dave

source: zeenews.india.com…

John Kerry

John Kerry – US Secretary of State

Kerry says Turkey ‘important’ for Palestine-Israel peace process

Ramallah: Top US diplomat John Kerry met Palestinian leaders Sunday on a fresh mission to forge a new path forward after a years-long impasse in Middle East peace negotiations.
Flying in from Istanbul, the first stop on a 10-day overseas trip, the US secretary of state’s convoy sped directly to the Ramallah headquarters of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank.

Kerry said after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul that he saw Ankara as “an important contributor to the process of peace,” adding it could help with building up the shaky Palestinian economy.

But Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s newly appointed lead negotiator for peace talks, played down the idea of Ankara’s immediate involvement, saying it was “interesting, but it could take time.” Washington’s top diplomat also urged Turkey and Israel to fully normalise their relationship two weeks after the Jewish state’s US-brokered apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla organised by a Turkish charity.

Kerry, President Barack Obama’s new pointman on the Middle East, is leading a renewed US effort to coax Israel and the Palestinians back to negotiations which have been frozen since September 2010.

He held talks with Abbas for the third time in a little over a month, in what a top State Department official called “a constructive meeting.”

First the two leaders met for about 20 minutes flanked by several top Palestinian and US officials, focusing on economic development and how to tap into resources and the private sector. The Palestinian Authority, headed by Abbas, is facing a huge budget deficit and economic crisis.

Kerry and Abbas then met for a one-to-one lasting almost an hour during which they “agreed to continue working together to determine the best path forward.”

Abbas said the release of prisoners held by Israel was a “top priority” for resuming peace talks.

“President Abbas stressed that the release of the prisoners is a priority that creates an appropriate climate for the possibility of moving the peace process forward,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

The US diplomat insisted however that the specifics of their solo talks “be kept in the room in order to keep moving forward in a positive direction.”

As the talks got under way, militants in Gaza fired a rocket which crashed into an uninhabited part of southern Israel without causing casualties or damage, police said.

The Gaza-Israel border has been largely quiet for the last four months since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended a deadly eight-day confrontation in November.

When Abbas hosted Obama in Ramallah last month, the Palestinian leader made clear there would be no return to negotiations without a settlement freeze.

But he has also made it known he would suspend for two months all unilateral efforts to seek international recognition to give US-brokered efforts a chance, a Palestinian official told AFP last week.

Abbas also wants Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present a map of the borders of a future Palestinian state before talks can resume.

“Any return to negotiations requires Netanyahu to agree on 1967 borders,” his political adviser Nimr Hammad told AFP referring to the lines that existed before the Six Day War when Israel took over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has on several occasions said he would not accept a return to the 1967 lines.

read the rest of this article here: zeenews.india.com…

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This is a tragic situation, and we can appreciate the frustration all round. The people of Gaza are frustrated because they are desperately poor. The managers of the UN relief work are frustrated because they fear for the safety of their staff when the frustration of their clients boils over into violence.  The authorities in Gaza are frustrated because they know their people badly need the assistance that the UN relief agency gives them.

Evidently what is required here for everybody concerned is a concrete political solution. Even so, this doesn’t make the short-term welfare needs any less serious.

Father Dave

Protest in the Gaza Strip

Protest in the Gaza Strip (photo ICAI)

source: www.voanews.com…

Palestinian Tensions Simmer Ahead of Kerry Visit

GAZA — Islamist group Hamas on Friday urged a United Nations agency to resume its operations in the Gaza Strip, accusing the world body of over-reacting by shutting down after its headquarters was stormed by demonstrators.

The main U.N. humanitarian agency for Palestinians closed all its offices in Gaza on Thursday after protesters stormed its headquarters to demand it reverse a decision to cut an annual $40 handout to the poorest Gazans.

The dispute comes against a broader backdrop of growing Palestinian unrest in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank, with no end in sight to the decades-old Middle East conflict.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Trip

  • April 6:  Istanbul, Turkey for talks with senior officials
  • April 7-9:  Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders
  • April 10-11: London for the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting
  • April 12: Seoul, South Korea
  • April 13: Beijing, China
  • April 14: Tokyo, Japan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to return to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy on Sunday, with meetings scheduled in both Ramallah and Jerusalem from April 7-9, just two weeks after President Barack Obama’s first visit to the region.

Like Obama before him, Kerry is not expected to bring any new initiative to revive peace talks, which broke down in 2010.

The past week saw violent clashes between youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, which raised fears that a new uprising, or Intifada, might be brewing. There were reports of sporadic confrontations on Friday, but not on the same scale as earlier in the week.

In another sign of the tensions, rockets were fired out of Gaza for three days running this week, while Israeli warplanes carried out their first strike on the territory since November.

The storming of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound in Gaza on Thursday was part of a dispute that has been brewing for weeks and was not tied to diplomatic events, but it laid bare the frustration brewing amongst Palestinians.

‘Unacceptable’

UNRWA provides assistance in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank to Palestinian refugees and their descendants — now put at some five million spread across myriad camps.

The agency has said it will not resume work in Gaza, including food distribution to 800,000 Palestinians — nearly half the enclave’s population — unless it receives assurances from Hamas over the safety of its staff.

“People are demonstrating because they’re frustrated and the situation in Gaza just seems to be getting worse,” said Robert Turner, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza.

“We respect everyone’s right to peaceful protest, but what happened yesterday was unacceptable,” he told Reuters, saying initial reports suggested up to 200 demonstrators, some carrying iron rods, had forced their way into the UNRWA compound.

Hamas called the closure of UNRWA offices “unjustified.”

“When UNRWA’s administration called Palestinian security they arrived, restored calm and ended the state of chaos,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “Therefore, we urge UNRWA to rethink its decision.”

Turner said UNRWA faced a $68 million shortfall in 2013 and took the decision to cut the $40 annual handout to 106,000 Gaza refugees to save some $5.5 million. To soften the blow, the agency was offering job schemes to help the poorest families.

News that food centers had been shut down shocked Gaza.

“If UNRWA closes down the food distribution centers, it would lead to a disaster,” said Fathi Al-Seidi, 30, who lives in a refugee camp. He added that locals were dependent on the UNRWA aid and cash from Western-backed authorities in the West Bank.

“Without this, life will be equal to zero,” he said.

U.N. officials said UNRWA appeared to be bearing the brunt of disillusionment in Gaza that followed a short-lived spurt of optimism last November when a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel raised hopes of an easing of restrictions on the enclave.

Israel, supported by Egypt, imposes a partial trade blockade on Gaza, saying it is needed to prevent arms reaching Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and has not renounced violence.

Since the November truce, which ended eight days of fighting, the restrictions have barely changed while Egypt has launched a crackdown on illegal smuggling tunnels into Gaza.

Underscoring Hamas’s difficulties, the group’s leader Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday it faced a “financial problem,” suggesting Arab allies were not providing sufficient aid.