Kerry’s Principles for Peace in the Middle East

The principles given to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a speech by the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, as much as they seem practical, are very unconventional at the same time.

The basis for the United States’ participation in the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians has always rested on only creating the conditions for the talks and not the suggestion of any solutions (facilitator, not negotiator). It was the Israeli precondition to even participate in the talks, regardless of the fact if they would provide any results. We should keep in mind that even just the organizing of the peace talks in the past has had a calming effect on the two nations, hence, turmoil has never been triggered during times when there were talks about the future of the region.

The approach of the outgoing administration

On this occasion, the outgoing United States administration decided on a completely different approach. Why?

Primarily, due to the fact that the administration is leaving. President Obama and Secretary Kerry are refusing to surrender their positions of power without leaving behind them anything on the negotiation table, disregarding that it is not the time for any type of talks. The failure of the United States’ mediation would be complete if they were to hand the baton to the new mediators chosen and send to the Middle East by president-elect Trump.

Furthermore, there is little time left until the 20th of January, when the presidential handover is to happen, and there is no chance for serious diplomacy, in case that they are to make it clear who is at fault and who should be pressured more in the future.  For this reason, President Obama has abandoned the common role of facilitator, not allowed to criticize or make suggestions, at least not publicly.

Israel’s opposition

In this move by the United States the Israelis see a significant problem. They have always believed that a peace agreement is possible only if the two negotiating sides agree, without pressures from outside and on that basis build their policy. To them there is no one who can order a component of the future agreement, even during the times when there are no negotiations.

Consequently, we are left with questions: what will happen with United States proposals? Will they receive a wider support on the Paris conference about the Middle East, to be held on the 15th of January and not including Israel? It is likely to be the circumstance. Would it be possible after that, at least in theory, for the United States, under the leadership of president Obama, directly or indirectly, to bring to the United Nations Security Council a proposed resolution, containing the conditions that Secretary Kerry stated? Notwithstanding that the resolution would not be binding for Israel, it would receive enormous support from the international community leaving Israel with a small number of allies and pressured by a wide range of countries.

Prospects fot the future

It is difficult to imagine that president Obama would go that far. As he has already sent his message to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem, listing to him the conditions under which a peace deal would be possible, whereas State Secretary Kerry has presented them as the only way to preserve the security of Israel and its democracy. Regarding his remark for the spreading of Jewish settlements on occupied territory, it leads to the situation with one State, which would remain the occupying force with significant issues on the inside of the territory, as well as on the outside. According to Kerry, the decision for the existence of two States, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs, can bring stability and keep Israel safe as a Jewish state with democratic institutions.

There should not be any illusions regarding the response the Israeli government will give to its closest ally until this point. Moreover, Israel will do everything to create a “debtor” from future President Trump, having to accept the emergent commitment to remove all of the negative influence of most recent diplomatic moves, as a reaction to the right-wing oriented politics of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

As a matter of course, the middle-eastern chaos will continue. The fault will be shifted to many sides, insults will occur daily, but it is the nations living in the region that will suffer the greatest damage.

US Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo by US government / public domain

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Mirko Stefanovic

Reseacher at CEI-IUL. Associate Professor at Law School of University NOVA in Lisbon. A Lawyer by education, he served as State Secretary and General Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia. Between 1992 and 2001 he was Ambassador of Yugoslavia in Israel and between 2011 and 2015 he was Ambassador of Serbia in Portugal.

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