The intensive efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to advance the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are coming to an end. In Kerry’s speech to the American Jewish Committee’s annual meeting on Monday, he already began to sketch what Israel can expect if it does not come to its senses and seek an agreement with the Palestinians. “[T]he people who think somehow because there is a fence and because there’s been greater security and fewer people hurt are lulling themselves into a delusion that that somehow can be sustained. It cannot be,” Kerry said.
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Although his remarks were directed at both Israel and the Palestinians, his warnings − “We’re running out of time ... If we do not succeed now ... we may not get another chance ... the status quo is simply not sustainable,” and if the status quo persists, “Israel will be left to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state” − leave no room for doubt: It is Israel that will bear the burden of failure.
The distorted policy Israel has adopted, according to which the negotiations are not between it and the Palestinians, but rather between it and the U.S. administration, shows that Israel is indeed deluding itself.
By these lights the entire negotiating process is nothing but a means of appeasing the last friend Israel has. When the U.S. pressure lets up and Kerry throws up his hands, the danger of a decline in relations will pass, and with it the need to negotiate. Israel, it seems, is also not particularly rattled by the threat of having to choose between its democratic and its Jewish character, nor by Kerry’s broad hint that that Judaism and democracy are not synonymous. The moral understanding of our American friend, that a country cannot be an occupier forever, is far from the understanding of a country celebrating 46 years of occupation in which it has seen redemption of the messianic, delusional variety.
Over the years Israel has become accustomed to phrases like “the last chance for peace,” has managed to avoid almost every “last chance” of this type and has steeled itself against pressures both at home and abroad. This time, too, one can almost sense the satisfaction at Kerry’s failure, with the government relating to him and his mission as a nuisance. American mediation is not the last chance, but it is the last chance under comfortable circumstances − while the West Bank is still quiet, while the Palestinian Authority has not renewed its efforts to obtain recognition for a Palestinian state, while the Arab countries are prepared to support any flexible solution and while the world has still not officially boycotted Israel. A government that ignores these circumstances and the American efforts is putting its citizens at risk.