If Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agrees to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal to restart peace talks with Israel, he should know that right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will never agree to give up the Israeli colonies on the West Bank. Kerry has told Netanyahu that Israel should revisit the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel complete peace and international recognition in return for complete return of all Occupied Territories.
It is surprising that the US Secretary of State has taken this Arab proposal as the starting point for his base-line on new talks, even if it has been watered down to include ill-defined land swaps. Kerry will clash with Netanyahu, who has resisted any withdrawal from the West Bank, if he sticks with the ideas contained in the proposal. If America caves into Israel, as it usually does, then Kerry and President Barack Obama will lose all respect of the Arab world. But if it calls Netanyahu’s bluff, then the region stands a chance of seeing peace.
The same week that Kerry met Abbas and the Arab League, the European Union (EU) took a small step to increase international pressure on Israel to stop its colonies on the West Bank, when it stopped any European grants or prize money going to Israeli projects on the West Bank. It is disturbing that such grants had been going to the colonies in the first place, but the decision is an indication that the EU refuses to go along with the Netanyahu government’s policy of continuing to expand its illegal colonies on the West Bank.
The EU’s decision was welcomed by the Palestinians, although many wanted more action like the EU enforcing a comprehensive boycott of colony products across all its territories and possibly also imposing travel restrictions on Israeli colonists living on the West Bank, never mind looking at the ultimate requirement, which is for Israel to halt colony construction and end its occupation of the West Bank.