John Kerry ruined what John Kerry built
These negotiations were serious. Much more serious than one would think. John Kerry did the impossible. Almost. When one day the story of what took place behind the curtain is told, the Israeli right will accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of surrender. And the radical right will accuse him of treason.
When the negotiations started last August, the odds of success were one to a thousand. But a few weeks ago, they were one to five. The framework started coming together. Even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his support. Chief negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni wouldn't have stayed there one second if she wasn't fully coordinated and backed by Netanyahu.
Most political analysts, in Israel more so than internationally, have already started their campaign of recriminations against Livni and Netanyahu. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas needs no propaganda department. He only needs to use what some of Israel's journalists say and write.
So why did the negotiations break down? Because of John Kerry. He built them. He ruined them. To his credit, he's probably the most stubborn man in the world. But one thing he refused to do – to learn from the past. After all, in previous rounds, we've seen the same framework he's been planning to present to Netanyahu and Abbas. President Bill Clinton's framework. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's framework. The Palestinians said no – twice. And both times, they paid no price. Both times, the finger was pointed at Israel. Another great success of the lies industry.
Just as great progress was being achieved, Kerry made a series of statements about the boycott that Israel would be facing if negotiations fail. Even the Palestinians couldn't believe that this man, the insistent broker, was saying these things. He started a campaign of accusations against Israel - just as Netanyahu was ready to make huge compromises. Kerry didn't mean to – but he signaled the way for the Palestinians to once again raise the bar on their demands. Once again, they could refuse. Kerry made it clear to them that Israel would be paying the price alone. Nothing would happen to them.
So John Kerry bears most of the responsibility. The Palestinians refused twice. He should have known it might happen again. Instead of making it clear that this is the last time, he started threatening Israel. This was the turning point. Kerry ruined what Kerry built.
Some claim that Israel brought about the crisis in negotiations because of its refusal to release prisoners. That's interesting. First, because negotiations regarding Israel's release of the fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners were conducted with the US. According to the deal being formulated, the Palestinians would have gotten many more than the 26 prisoners originally slated for release, and Israel would have gotten convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, serving a life sentence in the States. So where's the refusal? Where's the “negotiating crisis?”
Additionally, one should remember that the Palestinians announced in advance that the negotiations were about to end. Under such circumstances, refusing to make the last payment, known as “the fourth batch”, is the sensible thing to do. Consider a buyer who has made three payments and is about to make the fourth. Except that before doing so, he finds out that the seller has no merchandise. Would going through with the last payment be reasonable?
Yes, Israel conditioned the last payment on Palestinian agreement to extend negotiations beyond the current April 29 deadline. This is the most sensible demand. Israel was even willing to pay a higher price by releasing additional prisoners. But the anti-Israel propaganda machine, even from inside Israel, had already begun its usual campaign. Lies are winning. But one must fight for the truth.
Ben-Dror Yemini is an Israeli journalist, researcher and speaker. His book "The Industry of Lies" is soon to be published.