When the US wants peace more than Israelis and Palestinians
Previous American governments stated the US cannot want peace more than the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and if the two sides aren't too fussed about reaching a final settlement, then it is not the role of the US to drag them toward that which they do not desire. This is an irresponsible statement, suggesting that the US is doing someone a favor rather than promoting a crucial regional peace settlement, and that if we don't wish its interference it has no problem withdrawing from the process.
This could not be further from the truth. The US has a huge stake in the peace deal as it realizes what consequences it could have for other hot spots in the region; it understands that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as a pretext for threats, arms races and for lack of progress in internal issues for many countries across the region. Even if an Israeli-Palestinian peace will not change the region, it will create a new, more comfortable reality for the world's only superpower.
Unfortunately President Barack Obama too has reiterated this meaningless mantra in the late stages of his first term at the helm; when he did, the impression was that the US administration is withdrawing from the conflict. It appeared as though he despaired at the leaders' lack of cooperation and decided to just leave the two peoples to get on with the usual business of mutual accusations and the dear price both are paying for the failure to settle the long-standing skirmish.
All this was the case until John Kerry emerged on the scene and proved that America indeed wants this peace more than we do, that it's a vested American interest, even if it does, at times, seem that the two sides are more comfortable to remain in the current stalemate convincing themselves that time is on their side. At first, no one believed he stands a chance to shake the status quo. It appears that Obama too has just let him play the never ending political game of our region, if only because he did not want to prevent him from pursuing his ambition, especially as it was, in principle, a policy he shared. As the months have passed, it became clear there is something much more serious at stake, as is becoming clear from the vitriol directed at him now.
Kerry was waiting for this moment. He knew that while everyone accepts him smilingly and are rewarded with friendly pats on the shoulder, both sides estimate that nothing serious will happen and that he'll raise his hands in despair and admit he did his best. As this is not likely to happen, the parties have resorted to smears. And these are so predictable: the Palestinians say his propositions are right up Netanyahu's alley and stand in fundamental contradiction to the Palestinian interest. While the Israelis brand him as an anti-Semite, no less. Both the defense and the economy ministers have lashed out at him, and he's routinely presented as someone willing to compromise Israel's security in order to gain personal prestige.
Now it is clear both sides realize it's the real deal; that the US wants the agreement more than either of them and is willing to push it forth notwithstanding the unwillingness, narrow-minded nationalism and public opprobrium. Kerry realizes that the current round of smears is merely a testament to the pressure the sides are under as the moment of truth draws closer: it's the time of offering compromises without losing support at home, and preparing mutual assignations of blame in the event of the talks' failure. This is the time when Kerry can come forth with new ideas, shuffle the deck and make the opponents rethink the issues that over the years have solidified into taken-for-granted, immovable principles.
Kerry said in a CNN interview he has no intention of running for presidency in 2016, removing from the agenda the speculation regarding personal gain. He thus once more prompted the sides to ask themselves whether there is something genuine in the quest of a man who believes in his ability to persuade the parties to do what they should have done decades ago for their own good and for the good of the wide world, and failed to due to laziness and stupidity, and above all – due to a fear of too dramatic a change.
Dr. Yossi Beilin is president of the business consulting firm Beilink. In the past he served as a minister in three Israeli governments and as a Member of Knesset for Labor and Meretz. He was one of the pioneers of the Oslo Accords, the Geneva Initiative and Birthright.