Secretary Kerry in Jerusalem to Brief Netanyahu on Iran Nuclear and Palestinian Security


Secretary of State Kerry with Israeli PM Netanyahu, Jerusalem

December 5, 2013,  Source: AP Photo

Ever the optimistic diplomat for the floundering Obama Administration, John Kerry, the seemingly indefatigable US Secretary of State, is in Jerusalem today for meetings with Israeli PM Netanyahu and later with PA President Abbas. Kerry has been on a whirl-a gig following the announcement of the P5+1 deal with Iran’s nuclear program on November 24th in Geneva.   His globe girdling schedule has included a stop back in Washington to brief the Administration, media and key Senate Leaders on the P5+1 Iran nuclear deal negotiations.  That was followed by a sudden trip  by Vice President  Biden to Japan and China over the  latter’s sudden assertion of its sphere of influence with the announcement of an air defense zone  covering disputed Islands  in the South China Sea disputed  in a flyover by USAF B-52’s.  This appears to be more of the tilt towards the Pacific Rim startegy fostered by the West Wing in the Obama White House given its apparent failures in the Middle East in Syria and Egypt.

This week, Kerry jetted off to attend NATO Security meetings in Brussels and made hurry up side trip to Moldava to bolster support for EU integration with former Soviet era eastern European countries, most notably the Ukraine. A Ukraine with leaders facing massive opposition to a move nixing EU integration deal while tilting towards Putin asserting Russian hegemony in the region with former Soviet era satellite republics.

Israel’s PM Netanyahu has made it abundantly clear that he is very skeptical about the P5+1 deal   denying  Israel’s primary  national security concerns,  dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. A program that was on the verge of achieving nuclear breakout having enough fissile material for creation of one or more nuclear weapons. The interim six months  P5+1 deal has only marginally  delayed by a few weeks achievement of nuclear breakout, while enabling Iran to continue nuclear enrichment,  evading start up of plutonium production at the heavy water plant under construction at Arak and development of nuclear triggers at the secret Military research center at Parchin. It is alleged that PM Netanyahu may be seeking to link both the Iran nuclear and Palestinian final status discussions, while Kerry would like to  keep  them on separate tracks. Good luck.

On the final status agreement discussions with the PA Kerry has brought along with him US Marine General John Allen, his special deputy for security in the faltering final status peace discussions with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Gen. Allen was ISAF Commander in Afghanistan and, according to press reports,  has been busy liaising with IDF and Israeli security officials about security arrangements for proposed final status agreements. See his bio, here.

These peace discussions are at the mid-point of a timetable announced on July 30, 2013 in Washington seeking to conclude an agreement by April 2014.  PA President Abbas has basically abandoned interest in the talks broadly hinting US presence is biased towards Israel. Further,  seeing no progress to date he might opt for seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian State in the fall of 2014. Such a Palestinian statelet, would, in his view, be based on the 1949 Armistice line with ‘minor land swaps’ that would divide Israel’s capital of Jerusalem and the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. That would suborn language in UN Security Council Res. 242, adopted in November 1967, giving Israel the right to conclude “secure and defensible borders”.    Gen. Allen’s presence would appear to be evidence of the Administration ultimately foisting an agreement on both parties, Israel and the PA, given the apparent stalemate in final status discussions.

In an email exchange with Professor Yisrael Medad in Israel, I suggested that perhaps Gen. Allen might cover rumored security arrangements by a multi-national force, led by the US, providing security on the Judean hills overlooking the key approaches from the Jordan River Valley.  The more nettlesome aspects would be use of any proposed international force to police the modified 1949 Armistice line, the alleged pre-1967 June War boundaries. That would divide the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, and  possible jeopardize protection for the more than 350,000 Israelis in towns in Judea and Samaria. Communities that the international media refers to as West Bank ‘settlements’. PM Netanyahu has gone on record rejecting those proposals.

These ruminations about security arrangements and imposition of a US deal on Israel and the PA were raised in both AP and Ha’aretz stories about today’s stop by Kerry and Gen. Allen in both Jerusalem and Ramallah.   The AP report on today’s meetings noted:

The U.S. diplomatic officials said Kerry and his security adviser, retired Gen. John Allen, have been working on security issues in hopes of breaking the deadlock. They believe the absence of any concrete plans so far is a main reason for the lack of progress.

The American officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Kerry has not yet presented his proposals.

[…]

The Ha’aretz daily said that Allen would present his ideas at a meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday. After that meeting, Kerry is scheduled to head to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It said the American thinking is that if Israeli security concerns can be met, other issues, such as borders, will then fall into place.

One U.S. official said Allen “has been working closely on the ground with his Israeli counterparts.” The official said the Americans realize that security is “paramount” as Israel contemplates taking “calculated risks for peace.”

[…]

The officials refused to provide details on Allen’s work, including whether it might include stationing international forces along the West Bank border with Jordan. Netanyahu has insisted that Israel maintain a security presence in the West Bank as part of any final deal.

Yuval Diskin, former director of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, featured in the controversial film, The Gatekeepers, was quoted by The Times of Israel that failure to achieve a two state solution “dwarfed’ the existential Iranian nuclear threat.  Speaking at a conference on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the discredited faux Geneva Initiative, allegedly based on prior permanent status discussions, Diskin said:

“The alternative to the vision of a two-state solution is one state,” Diskin said. “In a situation like this, the vision of a democratic Jewish state will disappear. This is perhaps the last opportunity to reach a two state solution. The Geneva Initiative provides the basis for an agreement.

“We cannot live in a single state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River and we cannot relate to the conflict as shrapnel in the buttocks, as one of our ministers did,” he added, alluding to widely publicized comments made by Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) in June.

“The question will be who the shrapnel is and who is the buttocks,” he quipped.

”The implications of a lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are more existential than the Iranian nuclear [program],” he said, noting that the current state of affairs in the West Bank was like a powder keg.

“It does not seem as if the current government is trying to change the trend regarding the settlement enterprise,” he said, in a jab at Netanyahu. “Our friends in the world are giving up on the prospect of a two-states-for-two-nations solution. There is tremendous frustration in the West Bank. The Palestinians feel that their state is being stolen from them. Soon the Palestinian masses will feel that there is no future, only a bad past.

“We must take into account the relationship between the Palestinians and their Arab-Israeli brethren,” he continued. “The concentration of fumes is so high that a little spark could lead to a big explosion.”

The Netanyahu government immediately dismissed these comments of Diskin, implying perhaps they were motivated by his being passed over for Mossad director.  An official with the Netanyahu government was quoted by The Times of Israel saying:

Anyone who thinks the Palestinian threat is larger than the threat of a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran, which has made it its goal to destroy the State of Israel, is cut off from reality and lacks any strategic perspective.

The criticism by  the marginalized Israeli left of the Netanyahu government, seeking to assure the country’s national security interests vis a vis final status negotiations with the PA,  neglects the dissimilitude, corruption and total lack of integrity of the PA leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas.  The left in Israel live in a virtual dream world denying the overarching Islamist threat facing Israel on virtually all of its borders.  Diskin is reflecting the disingenuous approach of Israel’s left frantically  promoting  final status agreements that would suborn the national security interests let alone the existence of the Jewish nation.  We trust that Secretary Kerry and Gen. Allen do not take seriously these views as indicative of the majority of Israel’s polity. They are most decidedly not ther case as reflected in Israeli polls.  Most Americans polled support Israel, the only democratic ally and capable military force in the troubled Middle East. That support is reflected in serious questioning of the interim P5+1 Geneva agreement  and strong bi-partisan support in Congress for strengthened sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program in pending Defense Appropriations amendments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

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