Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, March 14, 2014.
The Left assumed that Kerry would rule in favor of the Palestinians and batter Israel into the madcap concessions of yesteryear. It doesn’t understand that the Clinton parameters and Olmert understandings are anachronistic, unrealistic and irrelevant diplomatic standards.
Here is the emerging hard-left line on John Kerry’s peace process: It’s not good enough; not accommodating enough to the Palestinians. It’s even dangerous, because Kerry is “caving” to Netanyahu and demanding “unjust” concessions from Abbas that were never raised in previous rounds of negotiations.
The American Jewish bête noire Peter Beinart, darling of the J Street crowd and Obama administration circles, has now taken up this line. Beinart is savaging US Secretary of State Kerry for, get this: “slavishly ginning up” an “unworkable and unjust” peace plan that just doesn’t meet “rightful” Palestinian expectations.
Beinart bemoans the fact that Kerry is “pulling back from the principles established by both Bill Clinton and Ehud Olmert,” whereby Israel would pull out permanently from the Jordan Valley and almost all of the West Bank, make all of eastern Jerusalem the Palestinian capital, allow tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, and not demand recognition as a Jewish state from the Palestinians.
Beinart accuses Kerry of “violating” the apparently sacrosanct Clinton “parameters” of 2000 and Olmert-Abbas “understandings” of 2008. Beinart pronounces these to be the holy “axioms” that guided Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the past and must be implemented in future. Anybody who doesn’t hew to this orthodoxy of the past, decides Beinart, is running a “self-defeating,” “unbalanced” (meaning too pro-Israeli), and “immoral” peace process.
Consequently, Beinart calls on J Street and all good “liberal Zionists” to “raise a stink” and defiantly “declare their support for the Clinton parameters and Olmert understandings.” Any framework that “gives Palestinians less than they were offered by Clinton and Olmert” doesn’t meet Beinart’s muster.
HERE IS some news for the high-and-mighty Mr. Beinart: There are no holy American-set parameters of the past that Israel must abide by, nor do the dangerous and unauthorized concessions thrown last minute at Abbas by a desperate and corrupt Ehud Olmert bind the State of Israel today. These are unrealistic, illegitimate and irrelevant diplomatic standards.
Beinart and his imperious “liberal Zionist” friends may not have noticed, but Israeli democracy has decided to move in a different direction. The people of Israel have twice elected a prime minister who explicitly considers the Clinton/Olmert “axioms” as anachronistic and misguided, and for good reason.
Take the division of Jerusalem: Both the Barak and Olmert governments fell partly because they were perceived as being willing to partition Israel’s capital city. Or consider the Jordan Valley: In today’s situation, no credible Israeli leader can forgo long-term Israeli control over the eastern border of a Palestinian state.
Let’s not forget that Abbas rejected the Clinton and Olmert deals, and there is no diplomatic principle that says that years later Israel should nevertheless offer the Palestinians even more. The opposite is true. Given apparent Palestinian radicalism (see Gaza), Israel now has updated and tougher red lines. And this will require meaningful and painful concessions from the Palestinians. Alas, it’s clearly difficult for Beinart and his J Street buddies to accept that.
Beinart’s harangue follows a well-worn and mistaken pattern of the Left. Instead of promoting real peace in the Middle East by pressing the Palestinians into adopting moderate and realistic positions, the Left emboldens Palestinian leaders into uncompromising and rejectionist positions by attacking Israel, and in this case, by slamming John Kerry as Israel’s shill.
But Beinart knows best: Abbas extremist demands are just and must be met; otherwise the process is a sell-out and a failure.
Beinart is just not prepared to accept that perhaps John Kerry has done serious homework; that after delving deep into the nitty-gritty details of the Palestinian-Israel dispute for six months, Kerry has perhaps come to conclusions that tilt more towards Netanyahu’s positions than those of Abbas; that maybe Netanyahu’s “axioms” are more valid than Olmert’s. (I’m not sure this accurate, but let’s just say).
Might this be legitimately possible? Could Netanyahu’s red lines be reasonable? Could Abbas be the unreasonable party? In Beinart’s book – of course not. Impossible!
Many observers strongly suspect that Beinart’s views reflect those of President Obama, and this explains the lambasting that Obama dished out to Netanyahu through the Bloomberg News interview he gave to Jeffrey Goldberg two weeks ago. In fact, it’s rumored in Washington that Obama is upset with Kerry for drawing “too close” to Netanyahu, and that Obama has said that if he were leading the negotiations, far more concessions could have been wrung out of his “good friend Bibi.”
It is not at all clear that Kerry has indeed drawn close to Netanyahu, but Beinart is right that Kerry’s failure might spell the end of the two-state solution. This scares Beinart to despair. But hey, what was he thinking? Sane, centrist voices warned in advance that impatiently pushing a diplomatic process with a weak and recalcitrant Palestinian leader like Abbas, on a background of false Palestinian expectations (raised irresponsibly Clinton and Olmert), at a time of regional upheavals and great uncertainties for Israel – was unwise and likely to fail.
Having ignored that advice and cheer-leaded for Kerry, assuming that Kerry would rule in favor of the Palestinians and batter Israel into the madcap concessions of yesteryear, the Left is left adrift at sea. It can only revert to default mode: dumping on Kerry as an extension of Netanyahu. Too bad the left can’t expend its energies on bringing Abbas to his senses.