If United States Secretary of State John Kerry fails in his efforts, it will be a disaster; if he succeeds, it will be an even greater disaster. Failure is liable to herald what New York Times analyst Thomas Friedman has called “the Brussels intifada,” a third intifada that won’t involve bombings and violence but sanctions and international boycotts of Israel. Failure will push the Palestinians back to the United Nations, where even the U.S. may remove its automatic and blind veto umbrella that has always protected Israel there. In the end, failure is also liable to reignite the fire of rebellion in the territories.
But success would be even more ominous. Kerry is not an honest broker, because the U.S. cannot be one − not even the U.S. of President Barack Obama, as disappointing as that is. The absolute ally of one side can never be a fair intermediary, not in business and not in diplomacy. An ally that cannot exploit the dependence of its protectorate to advance a fair agreement can’t achieve anything that will resolve the ultimate problems.
Instead, the name of the game now is exploiting the weakness of the Palestinian Authority. With the Arab world fighting its own regimes and the Western world tired of this endless conflict, the Palestinians are left alone to their fate. America is trying to bring them to their knees and subdue them. If it succeeds, it will be a disaster.
It would not only be unfair, but futile. If Kerry succeeds and the Palestinians sign the letter of surrender, 80 percent of the settlers will remain in place; Jerusalem won’t really be divided − certainly not enough to serve as two capitals; the Jordan Valley will remain in Israeli hands, whether leased, rented or borrowed; the imaginary Palestinian state will be demilitarized; Gaza will remain besieged, trapped and forgotten; Hamas, which represents around half the Palestinian people, will continue to be treated as an outcast; Israel will be recognized as a strictly kosher Jewish state, certified by the PA; the right of return will be denied forever to all the Palestinian exiles and refugees, wherever they may be; and the demands for “security arrangements” will be met − Israel’s demands, of course. The Palestinians, 7,000 of whom have been killed since 2000, have no security problems; their lives and wellbeing are guaranteed and thoroughly secured.
And what happens then? Will this solution last for any length of time? Will the millions of Palestinians bow their heads in submission and return happily to their routines, alongside 80 percent of their uninvited neighbors, with their lust for real estate, messianism and dispossession, some of whom live on the Palestinians’ private lands? Will they celebrate their independence in the alleys of Shuafat, their new eternal capital? And the refugees in the camps and the exiles all over the world, will they give up their dream? Will Hamas be disarmed? All because Kerry pressed and Mahmoud Abbas gave in?
None of this will happen, of course. Kerry is offering submission, and Abbas may be forced to sign off on it. Obama is watching what’s going on from a safe distance, lest failure be attributed to him. But failure is guaranteed, even if “success” is achieved. There might be a (slim) chance that these agreements will be implemented. And then what? Sooner or later, the Palestinian rebellion will erupt again, as justified as ever. The refugees whose problems were not solved, the farmers whose lands were not returned, Hamas, which was left out in the cold, and the left-wing movements will not accept the agreement. They won’t be able to accept it.
And then most Israelis’ heart’s desire will be achieved. Again they’ll be able to say to the world: See? We yielded and yielded, and they betrayed us; we gave and gave, and they returned to terrorism. They’re like animals, just like after the disengagement. Prospects for a real solution will recede even more, this time perhaps forever.
I ran into Friedman at the airport last week as he was leaving the country following his conversations in Jerusalem and Ramallah. The esteemed commentator said that he got the impression that much more was going on beneath the surface than was obvious. And my heart was filled with great fear.