BANGALORE – US Secretary of State John Kerry’s valiant effort to save the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is about to end in failure. Though achieving a substantive settlement was always a pipe dream, this latest disappointment will render the United States unable to preserve even the façade of a “peace process” that was all process and no peace. And that might not be such a bad thing.
The negotiations are failing for several reasons, beginning with Israel’s continued colonization of lands occupied in 1967, despite opposition from the international community, including the US. If anything, Israel has accelerated settlement construction since the latest round of talks began, while escalating its demands, especially regarding the stationing of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley. Releasing a few dozen Palestinian prisoners is no substitute for genuine concessions on these contentious issues.
Making matters worse, the US has continually refrained from using its substantial leverage to compel Israel to change course, owing to the domestic political strength of the pro-Israel lobby, especially the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Tellingly, Kerry appointed Martin Indyk – a British-born Australian citizen, who began his political career in the US working for AIPAC in the early 1980s – as the principal US facilitator.
Another obstacle to a peace agreement has been the division between Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Fatah-controlled West Bank. This, too, is rooted in American and Israeli intransigence – specifically, their refusal to accept Hamas’s victory in the 2006 election and recognize the group as the legitimate Palestinian representative. This policy encouraged Fatah not to cede any power to Hamas in the West Bank, engendering the split in occupied Palestine.