One Party that can deliver
US Secretary of State John Kerry invested heavily in Israel-Palestinian Authority peace talks from July 2013 to March 2014. In the wake of the failure, many people looked to blame one of the two parties for the talks’ failure. A recent New York Times article quoted Israeli left-wing politician Tzipi Livni as blaming the Palestinians for the collapsed negotiations (a surprising statement, as in Israeli election season she only criticizes her political opponent Benjamin Netanyahu.)
In reality, it was the US that was to blame.
The US did not fail for lack of effort. It did not fail in trying to find creative solutions. It failed because the entire basis of having negotiations in the current format was a fool’s errand.
The process was doomed from the outset because Secretary Kerry deliberately ignored Negotiation Rule 101: negotiations between parties that can deliver. A negotiation between parties without authority is meaningless. A person without authority or control could theoretically promise anything – but deliver nothing. That was precisely what Secretary Kerry insisted upon when he pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate with a straw man named Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas has no mandate. Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four year term as president of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005. After his term expired in January 2009, no new elections were held. He no longer has a mandate.
Abbas has no backing. The reason that no new elections for the PA have been held is that everyone knows that Abbas and his Fatah party would lose. One year after Abbas won the presidency, his Fatah party was trounced in legislative elections. Hamas won 58% of the parliament. Every poll taken since then has shown that Abbas would lose in a presidential election.
Abbas has no control. Gaza, with its population of 1.7 million people, is under complete control of Hamas. Hamas routed all PA forces in 2007 and Abbas has no ability to control any activities from the region. Hamas controls thousands of missiles which it fires at Israeli population centers with or without Abbas approval. Therefore, what “peace” can Abbas deliver?
Despite these enormous glaring flaws, the US pushed forward a peace process that was doomed from the start because of the very essence of one of the negotiating parties. Netanyahu was forced to sit across from a counter-party who could not deliver any compromise that he may have offered. As Netanyahu’s authority was clear, any negotiating point that he made was secure; Abbas could “bank” every concession. However, any compromise that Abbas would theoretically offer, could be negated by the Palestinians. Just as the Palestinians complained that they were never asked about the British Mandate in 1922, they could once again complain that the public was never consulted about the peace process, as a mothballed politician without backing negotiated the agreement.
Further, Abbas’ lack of control meant that he had no means of enforcing the agreement. Israel would be left (at best) with making peace with those parties that accepted the peace agreement, but still be at war with those that rejected the agreement. With Abbas unable to enforce the compromises and the peace, it would continue to fall on Israel to confront those Palestinians that were still at war with the country. Noting how the world reacted to Israel’s defensive operation against Gaza in 2014, could Israel have any sense of security that it could effectively counter-act Palestinian aggression post a mock peace deal?
Secretary Kerry compounded the mistake of the bogus negotiation by building up expectations. His earnest and persistent involvement aggravated the talk’s failure. By investing so heavily in the process, Kerry made the failure that much more pronounced. While there was no direct line linking the talk’s collapse to the July-August battles with Hamas, the environment was poisoned.
Abbas gets no R-E-S-P-E-C-T music video (music by Aretha Franklin): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LipAKFsUNq8
NY Times on Tzipi Livni impression on talks failure: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/24/opinion/roger-cohen-why-israeli-palestinian-peace-failed.html?_r=0
Related First One Through articles:
Abbas 10-year anniversary for a 4 year term: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/the-disappointing-46-anniversary/