US Secretary of State John Kerry is relentless in satisfying Israel’s unwarranted ‘security’ demands at the expense of the Palestinians. And despite Israel’s unconcealed attempts to derail any efforts that could lead to ending construction in its illegal colonies in the Occupied Territories, Kerry remains heedless to Israel’s behaviour and continued violations of human rights and international law. In his speech before the World Economic Forum in Davos last Friday, Kerry sounded like anything but a peacemaker, who is guided by immovable moral values or ethnical impulses.
One of Israel’s many security demands is having complete control over the proposed Palestinian state’s eastern border, the Jordan Valley. In principle, Kerry has no quarrels with Israel’s wishes. “We understand that Israel has to be strong to make peace, but also that peace will make Israel strong,” he said. To keep Israel strong has always been like a calling for American officials. Former president Bill Clinton was fixated with helping Israel maintain its military ‘edge’ over all of its neighbours. Others were no different. For Kerry, that ‘edge’ meant allowing Israel permanent presence at the Palestinian border.
“A fortified border would protect against military or terrorist attacks, ‘by deploying state-of-the-art technology, with a comprehensive programme of rigorous testing”, Kerry said in Davos, reported the Australian daily newspaper. Kerry spoke of “several layers of protection” for Israel, a discussion that involves Jordan, according to the secretary. It goes without saying that Kerry’s ideas involved layered hypocrisy, typical of American officials masquerading as peacemakers. In recent days, several Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza and the West Bank — one of them killed on the day Kerry delivered his speech. Yet, it is Israel’s protection that Kerry found quite urgent. But Israel wants more. On December 29, a Knesset committee gave a preliminary approval to a proposed bill aimed at annexing the entirety of the West Bank’s Jordan Valley to become an integral part of Israel. It is reminiscent of a similar bill that annexed the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981. The US did not condemn the Israeli move.
In fact, the exact opposite took place when one considers recent comments by Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, as quoted by Ynetnews. Ya’alon accused Kerry of being “obsessive and messianic”. “The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it’s written on,” Ya’alon said, referring to efforts underway since last July by Kerry, “who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervour.” Kerry “cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians,” Ya’alon said. So far, Kerry has made ten trips to the Middle East with the intention of hammering out an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Based on media reports, it seems that the prospective agreement is composed in such a way that it mostly accommodates Israel’s ‘security’ whims and obsessions, including the idea of ‘land swaps” which was floated by Israel’s notorious Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ten years ago.
“When Mr Lieberman first proposed moving Arab-populated Israeli towns near the present border into Palestine in exchange for Jewish settlement [colony] blocs in the Palestinians’ West Bank being incorporated into Israel, he was branded a racist firebrand,” wrote the Economist on January 18. “Liberals accused him of promoting the forcible ‘transfer’ plan, akin to ethnic cleansing, proclaimed by a rabbi Meir Kahane, who vilified Arabs while calling for a pure Jewish state.” Those days are long gone, as Israeli society drifted rightward. “Even some dovish Israeli left-wingers find such ideas reasonable.” Back then, the Americans themselves were irked, even if just publicly, whenever such ideas of ‘population transfers’ and ethnic cleansing were presented by Israel’s ultra-right politicians. Now, the Americans find them malleable and a departure point for discussion. And it is Kerry himself who is leading the American efforts to accommodate Israel’s endless list of demands — of security and racial exclusiveness even if at the expense of Palestinians. So why is Ya’alon unhappy?
The defence minister, who sat immediately next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Kerry, was unapologetic about his reasoning: “Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the River Jordan will endure.” It means unrelenting Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Netanyahu is hardly an innocent bystander in all of this. Israel’s prime minister is busy issuing more orders to populate the occupied West Bank with Jewish colonies and berating every government that rejects such insidious behaviour as being anti-Israel, ‘pro-Palestinian’ or worse, anti-Semitic. This was the case again in recent days, following another announcement of colony expansion.
On January 17, Netanyahu called on Europe to stop its “hypocrisy”. On the same day, Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain, “accusing their countries of pro-Palestinian bias”, reported the BBC online. According to the ministry, the “perpetual one-sided stance” of these countries is unacceptable. Yet, considering that Europe has supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories for decades, economically helps sustain the ‘Jewish state’ and its more than 100 illegal Jewish colonies and continues with its often unconditional military support of Israel, the accusations may appear strange and equally bewildering to that of Ya’alon against John Kerry.
How could a country the size of Israel have so much sway over the world’s greatest powers, where it gets what it wants and more, hurls regular insults against its sustainers, and still asks for more?
The Americans cannot possibly be genuine in their latest ‘peace process’ push. If they were, they would use the growing anti-occupation sentiment in Europe and elsewhere and place Israel before clear options: Either peace per international law standards or an immediate end to the ‘special relationship’ that has caused many wars, much strife and sustained the Israeli military occupation and illegal colonies for decades.
But with the Israeli lobby having such undeserved influence over US Congress and much sway over much of the corporate media, Kerry, who is neither ‘obsessive’ nor ‘messianic’ has no options but to follow the Israeli script, knowing in advance of its assured failure.
Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).