Kerry in the Mideast: Tilting at Windmills

John Kerry is no fool, and he is far from ignorant about either the Israel-Palestine conflict or the domestic politics surrounding it. So who is he trying to kid with this all out blitz of Israel-Palestine diplomacy? I examine it at LobeLog.

The American Problem

Israel is acting like any small, but relatively powerful country would act when it feels afraid and has blanket and unqualified protection for any of its acts from the world’s only superpower. It is the United States that is acting abnormally and entrenching this vexing conflict. I elaborate at Souciant today.

Kerry’s Mideast Trip Seen as “Going Through the Motions”

My report at IPS on John Kerry’s recent trip to Israel and Palestine. More important, I look at the broader strategy that seems apparent from the new Obama-Kerry-Hagel triumvirate on Middle East peace.

Where is the Palestinian Mandela?

In this week’s column at Souciant, I take on that tired refrain about the “lack of a Palestinian Mandela” and use it to explore the real problem of poor Palestinian leadership. This was in evidence just recently in a spat between Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas. That weak leadership has been supported in many ways by the US and Israel, to the detriment of all of us. Incompetents and quislings may be the preferred leaders in Jerusalem and Washington, but that preference rises only out of shortsightedness. We are not going to see a resolution of this conflict if there is no room for strong, independent and sensible Palestinian leadership….

We Interfere, Palestinians Pay the Price: A Neverending Story

Once again, outside interference in Palestinian affairs caused severe harm to Palestinians, and also set back the very ambitions those outsiders wished to advance.

For at least the past year, Professor Nathan Brown has been putting forth a nuanced view of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with the goal of trying to break the

Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad

Western infatuation with him while trying not to blame the man himself.

It’s an important mission.

Brown’s latest entry at Foreign Policy furthers this line of thinking within the framework of what might turn out to be Fayyad’s denouement on the Palestinian political stage.

Brown sells Fayyad a little short in some ways, but his purpose is to break the mystical aura.

Still, we should note that there have been real accomplishments under Fayyad.

It’s true, for example, that the so-called “economic revival” in Ramallah has been vastly overstated, and even the extent to which it is real is mostly attributable to foreign aid and the lifting of some travel restrictions by Israel. But in the imaginary world where there’s even a possibility of a Palestinian state, its economy is going to require large amounts of external aid for some time, and Fayyad was instrumental in modeling what that early success could look like. Continue reading

Text: The Palestinian Unity Agreement

I’ve pasted below the full text of what is, according to the Palestinian National Initiative (Mustafa Barghouti’s organization), the new Palestinian unity agreement. My thanks go to independent journalist Jared Malsin for alerting me to this translation, and to Ma’an News’reporter and English Editor George Hale for the list of signatory organizations.

Palestinians clearly want unity, but will this text bring it?

The translation is rough in some places, and there is a distinct lack of clarity in some areas, making me wonder if the former hasn’t led to some of the latter. But on the whole, this agreement doesn’t say much that hasn’t been reported already. I’ll just make a couple of points.

There is a good deal here about healing the rift that has developed between Gaza and the West Bank. It’s unclear how that can be accomplished while Israel lies between the two territories, and is not likely to be disposed to allowing passage between them. Elections could be a problem as well, although Israel did allow Hamas to campaign in 2005. Still, given that experience, it’s hard to count on such “largesse” again.

There are two passages that seem to be key, but are very vague in their wording.

Section 2 seems to indicate that Hamas is agreeing to allow the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to continue to be the representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations, primarily of course, with Israel. We should recall that, despite a blurring of the line between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, the two are different, albeit overlapping, bodies, and the PLO is still the only recognized representative of the Palestinian people (so recognized by Israel, the US and the international community, and at one time by the Palestinian people. Whether this remains true for Palestinians is problematic at best). This is what allows Hamas to straddle the line between dealing with Israel and its refusal to recognize the “Zionist entity.” It would seem this reaffirms Hamas’ stated position of years past that they would abide by an agreement negotiated by Abbas is it was approved by a popular referendum. Continue reading