John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, is approaching full throttle in his bid to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In a speech yesterday to the American Jewish Committee, Kerry said Israel should still regard the P.A. as a partner – an implied rebuke to members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government who have suggested the authority has outlived its negotiating usefulness.
The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to a policy of nonviolence. They are the only entity out there in that region that has committed themselves to nonviolence. Think of the cost of that. And think of what they have done to try to build institutions, a security arrangement, a democracy, a prime ministership, growth in the Palestinian economy. The fact that last year, up until recently, not one Israeli died from anything that happened from the West Bank until there was a settler killed about a month ago.
Meanwhile, AIPAC, at the very hour Kerry was delivering his speech to the AJC, e-blasts every office in Congress, casting the lone recalcitrants in this scenario as the Palestinians:
Palestinians must reciprocate America’s efforts, quit stalling, and return to the negotiating table with Israel. Moreover, Washington must insist that President Abbas and his newly appointed prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, continue efforts of the outgoing PA government to develop durable, noncorrupt Palestinian institutions and foster security cooperation with Israel.
The AIPAC email contrasts what it depicts as Israel’s willingness to entertain Kerry’s initiatives with a Palestinian resistance to doing so. It notes that Israel “quietly suspended” bids for new construction in the West Bank, but ignores the new building in eastern Jerusalem. It describes Abbas’ expanding list of preconditions for restarting talks — “He has publicly demanded that Israel freeze all settlement construction, release Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist attacks on civilians, present a map on final borders, and promise to refrain from withholding tax revenues.” — but does not mention that Abbas too has reportedly “quietly suspended” his bid to achieve statehood recognition through international bodies.
Abbas has named someone not well-known in the West as his new prime minister, replacing the Western-favored technocrat with whom he had clashed, Salam Fayyad. The fact that Rami Hamdallah does not have much of a record concerns AIPAC. “In light of the appointment of Rami Hamdallah — a former academic whose policy views remain unclear — as the new PA prime minister, the United States should insist that the new PA leadership demonstrate a renewed commitment to institution building, reform, transparency, and nonviolence,” AIPAC says.