Via Juan Cole and Mondoweiss, John Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday featured a clear admission that Israel was the cause of the collapse of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. First, the Israeli government refused to fulfill its promise to release Palestinian prisoners and then announced the construction of 700 new settlement units in East Jerusalem. Here’s Kerry:
In my judgment both leaders have made courageous and important decisions up until now. For Prime Minister Netanyahu to release prisoners is a painful, difficult political step to take, enormously hard, and the people of Israel have been incredibly supportive and patient in giving him the space in order to do that. In exchange for the deal being kept of the release of prisoners and not going to the U.N. Unfortunately, the prisoners weren’t released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day went by, day two went by day three went by and then in the afternoon when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem. And poof! That was sort of the moment.
And now today, “an Israeli government official says the prime minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, has told his ministers to stop holding meetings with their Palestinian counterparts,” the Guardian reports, marking an official end to negotiations. Netanyahu blamed it on Palestinian attempts to sign on to international treaties, even though this happened after the events that Kerry argues dissolved talks.
Why would Israel want to deliberately terminate negotiations? The answer: Israel opposes a Palestinian state. A recent report from the European Union concluded that Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements is a deliberate strategy aimed at rendering a viable Palestinian state impossible. As The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg has written, “The right-wing wants the land, but not the people.” The better option, Israeli policy seems to indicate, is to smoke them out.
This should be surprising to no one. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party Charter describes Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza as “the realization of Zionist values” and declares the whole of the West Bank and Jerusalem as belonging to Israel (“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river”). Did Kerry actually believe the Netanyahu government was entering into negotiations in good faith?
Update: I guess to demonstrate their good faith, influential right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset are calling on Netanyahu to “annex the West Bank now.”