Friday, January 31, 2014

What Kerry wants

To be honest, I have big doubts about John Kerry's diplomatic skills and it is my right as citizen of the world to doubt it. In the last decade, the representatives of the American diplomacy in general are nothing but diluted shadows of what the function of State Secretary used to be. Hopefully, the main diplomats preparing the memos and representing the US interests abroad didn't change, but this is another good story.
As for Kerry, the benchmarks of his glorious mandate are not glamorous. During his first speech dedicated to the foreign-aid, an important instrument of branding America abroad, and not only, he branded a new country 'Kyrzakhstan'. Last August, while in Pakistan, he praised the merits of the Egyptian Army in preserving democracy - probably he watched the wrong movie a couple of years late. His speeches about Syria where confusing and created a lot of problems to the White House and other professional diplomats, fighting to correct for hours his risky statements made without watching the files prepared by the specialists.
No wonder that the White House sent a special help for the chief of the diplomats, Jen Psaki, the former spokesperson of Obama during 2012 elections, where will occupy a similar position.

New York Times diplomacy

The practice to use the media for sending diplomatic messages is not new and not invented by the US. However, in big serious issues, the recommendation will be to use the normal channels. Such a tactic is usually employed when someone wants to test certain ideas and initiatives. Somehow, when the ideas and projects are very important, it is not a very smart idea to play such media games.
However, the same Kerry did it by using the pen of the close friend of Obama administration, Thomas Friedman, in the case of the Middle East peace plan.
Due to the stakes and the implications, I humbly think that it is a very childish idea, to keep the diplomatic language.
You don't need to write books about the Middle East to know that most of the ideas presented by Friedman as part of the plan are not acceptable and will never work out. If Washington wanted to know how the political allies of Netanyahu will react, they only needed to hire a good Hebrew reader to watch for a week or 10 days the local media. And if they think that without Netanyahu - who is a skilful politician, to keep the same diplomatic language - they will get any 'deal', they underestimate seriously the situation.
But, remember, Kerry was the one who had a nice dinner with Bashar al-Assad when the same Assad was butchering his people. No comment.

The 'plan'

According to the well informed Friedman, the 'plan' includes: a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank; an increased security arrangement in the Jordan Valley (Obama and King Abdullah are expected to meet the 6th of February in California, anyway); an Arab capital in the East Jerusalem; the recognition of the Jewish state by the Palestinian Authority (whose head, Abu Mazen has big problems not only with recognizing Shoah, but also with managing the extreme militant Islamist elements); the maintenance of a couple of settlements, under the condition of compensation from the Israeli state; the right to return of the Palestinian refugees will not be recognized.
Dan Shapiro, the US Ambassador of Israel, said on the occasion of his participation of a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies that the ideas were mostly expressed by the Israeli and Palestinian representatives and does not reflect a strict 'American authorship'. On the other hand, one day before, Benjamin Netanyahu said that the ideas reflect the American ideas. During the government meeting the last Sunday, Netanyahu said that the Jews living in the West Bank might be under the authority of the Palestinian Authority. 
Right now, the security of the settlements is in the majority of cases guaranteed by the IDF, not becaue they like it, but due to the often serious security threats from their Palestinian neighbours.


Present at the same discussion of the Institute for National Security Studies, Stephen Hadley, the former national security advisor under the former US president George W. Bush, an experienced diplomat and security expert, outlined that there might be a coincidence between the 'peace plan' and the negotiations with Iran. Most specifically, Benjamin Netanyahu needs serious guarantees that the deal with Iran will be strong enough to do not expose Israel to an atomic danger and thereafter will consider the peace options at home.
On the Israeli home front, the situation turns to be problematic. Local politicians supporting a peace, like the Finance minister Yair Lapid, warns that the EU sanctions - that were never so fast and serious when it was about dealing with the human rights violations in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Syria and many other parts of the world - will affect seriously the Israeli economy. 
The local economy is going through difficult times already, but mostly to the some disfunctionalities of a primarily socialist system non fully adapted to the market economy. 
The possibilities of local elections are quite high, due to the fact that part of the Likud party as well as the bloc party of HaBayt HaYehudi, will never accept the deal. Naftali Bennett, a young leader with a lot of support in the settlements, and the minister of Economy, warned that the deal will over expose Judea and Samaria to serious security threats. 
This Friday, around 2,000 persons gathered in the Old City of Jerusalem to oppose the main points of the 'peace deal' as appeared in the media. 
As for Mr. Kerry, his office declined the possibility of a visit, the 11th within one year, in the region in the next days. 
The peace in the Middle East is a honest wish for many citizens of the Jewish state and probably for many Palestinians too. But it should be done realistically, understanding the needs of the region and the possibilities of the local elites. Something that the NYTimes diplomacy will most likely fail to address. And a dinner with Bashar al-Assad will not bring good inspiration either. 

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