Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Secretary of State Kerry’s Announcement of Peace Talks
July 19, 2013 - Today Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have “established a basis” for resuming formal peace talks, and may meet in Washington D.C. as early as next week.
We understand why Secretary of State Kerry and others caution against cynicism. Yet it is impossible to ignore the reality that conditions for productive talks are far from ideal. In fact, none of the conditions that have doomed peace talks over the last twenty years have fundamentally changed.
The Israeli government is extremely right-wing, with several Ministers that lead powerful factions declaring their satisfaction with the status quo or outright opposition to talks. The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, has a credibility problem, given that it represents only a portion of the Palestinian people, and faces tremendous economic pressure from donor nations to return to negotiations.
Fears that the Israeli government will use the possibility of talks only to find political cover are justified, especially as the EU has newly announced policies on settlements and as public opinion worldwide becomes more impatient with its ongoing occupation and rights violations. The number of settlers living over the Green line has tripled since Oslo began in 1993, and less than 24 hours ago the Israeli government approved over 700 new homes in Modi’in Ilit, on land illegally taken from the Palestinian village of Bil’in.
Perhaps the greatest concern is that the U.S. will continue its decades-long practice of acting, in the words of Aaron David Miller, a 25-year veteran of the peace talks, as “Israel’s attorney.” Just a few days ago, the Obama administration’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said in her confirmation hearings that “the United States has no greater friend in the world than the state of Israel”—while simultaneously vowing to work to get Israel a seat at the Security Council.
Jewish Voice for Peace would welcome moves by Secretary of State Kerry to use the tools at his disposal—including the generous military aid the U.S. provides Israel annually, more than to any other country in the world—to hold Israel accountable to the U.S.’s stated policies on settlements and international law. We can only hope to see any progress toward equality, freedom, and security for all the people of Palestine and Israel if he shows a willingness to actually enforce those positions in the negotiations process.