Practical Advice for Sec. John Kerry

Following is a translation of an editorial written by Ambassador Danny Ayalon, published on Israel’s “Walla” news website, offering practical advice for Secretary of State John Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process:

From the seventh floor at the US State Department located at Foggy Bottom, where Secretary Kerry has his office, the plan looks remarkably logical, genius in its simplicity.

The plan mapped out true peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines, with equal size land swaps, Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, Jerusalem as the capital of both countries, the Temple Mount under international control, a symbolic return of Palestinian refugees to the 1948 borders, and the stationing of an international force to keep the peace.

The plan seemed so simple, that Secretary Kerry dedicated only nine months to complete it and have it signed.

If Palestinian terror would try to derail the plan, Kerry’s school of thought envisioned fighting terror as if there were no negotiations in progress, while remaining dedicated to the negotiations. Palestinian incitement? We’ll ignore it, because once a peace deal is reached, it will disappear on its own.

Hamas is at odds with Abbas, and objects to any peace treaty with Israel? Egypt and Saudi Arabia will restrain Hamas.

The violent breakup of the Arab world has led to an increase of international Jihadist terrorism? The Palestinian peace treaty will eradicate that terrorism.

And what about political objection from within Israel? American stroking of any politician seeking recognition will make him an enthusiastic supporter.

The reality is, of course, much more complicated and it hasn’t changed very much in the last 20 years following the Oslo Accords in 1993. Kerry’s attempt to achieve success while using the same exact tools and tactics used by his predecessors at the State Department, which led to failure time and time again is peculiar and not understood.

John Kerry is following the same path as his predecessors – Warren Christopher, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. They all tried the exact same thing and all suffered resounding defeats. Instead of learning from previous experience and searching for other, more creative approaches, Kerry followed the path his predecessors took, which as we unfortunately know, is a foregone conclusion. The intensive occupation in these days in the attempt to increase the negotiations beyond the scheduled ending point set for the end of this April, the intense negotiation with the Palestinians concerning prisoner releases, building freezes and Palestinian withdrawal from their unilateral decisions to join UN and international organizations instead of focusing on the salient points of any agreement, prove how distant and impossible to reach a conclusive agreement that will truly end the conflict really is.

Instead of banging their heads against the wall, continuing a process that is nothing more than a masquerade where both sides fool themselves and each other, the Americans must show real leadership, recognizing the reality of the situation and from that deriving a new, effective strategy. Only a plan that will recognize the obstacles that have interfered with every agreement until now, will be able to change the reality down line, and will eventually lead to conditions improving to the point where a true solution can be reached.

Instead of an unreachable permanent agreement, we should strive for long-term interim agreements. Instead of trying to penetrate this dead end through the blocked Palestinian gate, a process should be initiated with the other Arab nations, especially Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states, who currently share many deep and common security interests with Israel and the United States.

The assumption that peace with the Palestinians will lead to the normalization of relations with the other Arab countries has failed to come true, and therefore a new method must be tried, where normalization with the Arab countries will lead to peace with the Palestinians. In order to do this, the Americans must show all the players in the region their true reflections, especially Mahmoud Abbas.

Today, Abbas is the main objector to interim agreements. His tough diplomatic positions and his political weakness at home have entangled him into taking a path that leads to a dead-end. Abbas’ policy of all or nothing is the continuation of the ideological path taken by Yasser Arafat and Sheikh Amin al-Husseini. The changing geopolitical reality in the region and across the globe no longer serves the Palestinians, and so therefore, the “all or nothing” approach will lead to them getting nothing.

By using interim agreements that will obviously take Palestinian interests into consideration, a win-win formula can be found that will be acceptable for all sides. Based on these agreements, a common, prosperous future can be built that will lead to mutual trust and recognition between both sides. That way, true peace and security can be reached. Can Kerry courageously and honestly admit to his mistake, will he show all sides in the region their true reflections? Will he be smart enough to build political capital and international support for such a step? One can only hope that a new path will be chosen, even if the chances of success are only 50%. Better a 50% chance of success than a 100% chance of failure.

The full text of the article can be read in Hebrew on the “Walla” website, here.