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'Kerry, You Coward!': Palestinians Protest Arrival of US Envoy in Occupied West Bank
'Framework agreement' is biased toward Israel, say Palestinians, but the so-called "peace process" has problems deeper than that
Palestinian protesters greeted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Ramallah on Friday with chants of "Kerry, you coward" and "Kerry go home" as he traveled to the West Bank to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, amid the latest round of talks between the Israeli government and the PA.
Palestinian critics of Kerry say the negotiations have so far favored the demands of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Kerry met with on Thursday and Friday morning before heading to the West Bank.
Hours before Kerry was due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a raucous crowd of several hundred took to the streets of Ramallah, the West Bank's de facto capital, chanting "Kerry, you coward, there's no place for you in Palestine!"
Separately, an official close to Abbas dismissed Kerry's drive for a "framework agreement" as biased toward Israel. [...]
Palestinian and Israeli officials have publicly differed on the future status of the West Bank's border with Jordan, where Israelis want a permanent security presence but Palestinians want a full withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.
The goal of the current negotiations, according to the U.S. delegation, is to come to a "framework agreement" between the two parties, in which the Israelis and Abbas' PA can map out a path towards a future agreement to be signed in April.
"The U.S. does not set an end to those violations as a goal of these peace talks – let alone as a precondition. If it did, Israel would have to end its occupation of the 1967 territories and recognize the Palestinians’ right of return unilaterally – ending violations shouldn’t require negotiations." –Phylllis Bennis
However, Yasser Abed Rabbo, Abbas's deputy in the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the "framework agreement" for a peace deal "restricts Palestinian sovereignty on Palestinian land."
While Kerry said yesterday that an agreement between the two is "not mission impossible,” Netanyahu portrayed the opposite sentiment, claiming that the Palestinian leader is someone who embraces terrorists "as heroes" in a press conference following their meeting.
Netanyahu also recently proposed plans to build 1,400 housing units in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
However, Kerry has called such settlements “illegitimate,” as they are illegal under international law.
According to the Associated Press, in the negotiations Netanyahu is "likely to be asked to accept — with some modifications — the borderlines that existed in 1967 before Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem."
Abbas, on the other hand, will likely be asked to recognize "Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and give up the so-called 'right of return' for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the war over Israel's creation in 1948."
Critics of the overall and so-called "peace process," however, have long argued that what are widely passed off as "negotiations" towards a peaceable solution between the Israelis and Palestinians are, in fact, an affront to a just end to the occupation of Palestinian land. To many of those critics, U.S.-driven talks themselves, dating back to before the Oslo Accords in 1993, have done more to entrench the conflict than solve it.
And as foreign policy expert and Institute for Policy Studies fellow Phyllis Bennis wrote this fall, the Obama administration's strategy (led by Kerry) is simply more of the same failed U.S. policy that has existed through successive administrations:
Kerry’s latest foray into Middle East negotiations should be called the Einstein peace process. Doing the same thing over and over again and still expecting different results is the great scientist’s definition of insanity. This time around, indications are that Kerry actually believes, all evidence to the contrary aside, that this latest iteration of the decades-old industry known as the “peace process” might really succeed. But unfortunately for Kerry, his political calculations are about to run aground on the unforgiving shoals of political reality.
The problem, according to Bennis, is that the same failed approach is being tried once again and, as always, the claims of the Israeli government trumps that of the Palestinians living under armed military occupation:
...Part of the problem lies squarely in Kerry’s stated U.S. goal for the talks: “ending the conflict, ending the claims.” Not ending the occupation, not ending the siege of Gaza, not ending the decades of dispossession and exile of Palestinian refugees. Only ending the tension, the dispute – regardless of which version of current reality becomes the officially agreed upon final status. Then, in Kerry’s world, all Palestinian claims will disappear, and the Palestinians, even if their internationally-recognized rights remain out of reach, will smile, applaud their brave leaders, and politely agree to suck it up. (Future Israeli claims will not have to end, of course, because Israeli claims are about “security,” inherently legitimate and non-negotiable, while Palestinian claims – to self-determination, real sovereignty, equality, return – are simply political and up for grabs.)
And Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud points out the questionable status of Abbas' Palestinian Authority, reflecting the argument of many that it is not the legitimate voice of all Palestinians; certainly not of those living under Israeli military blockade in Gaza or the many refugees who remain outside of Palestine altogether. As the "peace process" re-surfaced earlier this year, Baroud wrote:
[The PA], an entity that was created with Israeli consent, and funded by US-led donor countries, cannot operate outside the US political sphere. According to a reading of the just published annual report by the Palestinian Monitory Authority, as reported by Ma'an news agency, the West Bank economic indicators for 2012 were terrible, and prospects for the next two years are even worse. The PA has no political vision, and even if it did, it is too overwhelmed by economic dependency to act as a self-respecting political entity. The PA has to play the game, fully knowing that the game has been rigged from the very start.
All three parties know this very well, but they are willing to return to the negotiations table. Any table will do while they pause for photos, smile and shake hands over and over. By doing so, a media circus made of experts will resume, are ready with metaphors, clichés and sound bites, as long as they are crammed into 30 seconds or less.
And as Bennis concluded:
Israeli violations of international law, the Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions and more remain. The U.S. does not set an end to those violations as a goal of these peace talks – let alone as a precondition. If it did, Israel would have to end its occupation of the 1967 territories and recognize the Palestinians’ right of return unilaterally – ending violations shouldn’t require negotiations. That’s why, ultimately, these talks will fail. Until negotiations are based not on U.S. support for Israeli power but on international law, human rights, and equality for all, the “peace process,” including this latest Einstein Edition, will continue to fail.