It’s ironic that John Kerry is spending so much energy trying to upset the status quo in Israel/Palestine, given that the status quo there is preferable to that in almost every other country in the region. As Tom Wilson points out, most Palestinians don’t live under “occupation”; they live in areas controlled and governed by the Palestinian Authority — a mixed blessing, to be sure.
Meanwhile, Israel enjoys relative peace and prosperity. Indeed, Wilson is correct when he says:
In the last decade this conflict has generated comparatively fewer casualties than those in nearby countries and if one doesn’t count Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon or Hamas-controlled Gaza, which are after all not even being included in Kerry’s peace plan, then the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of recent years has been positively uneventful. A cold war between Israel and the PA.
This state of affairs renders Kerry’s task exceedingly difficult. Absent an occupation, and with a leadership growing fat on outside financial support, it makes sense for the Palestinians to hold out for something approaching their vision — a “one state solution” or, at a minimum, a two state solution that leaves Israel unable to preserve itself. Israel, of course, cannot accept either “solution.”
Meanwhile, a peaceful and prosperous Israel has little incentive to “take risks for peace,” as the Obama administration has implored it to do. As Wilson asks, why evacuate the strategically vital Jordan Valley and abandon the West Bank hilltops that overlook Israel’s narrow coastal strip where its major population centers, industrial infrastructure, and transit network are all situated. The risk is far too great that a Palestinian state would become another failed state, a terror state, and/or an Iranian satellite.
This is where the economic boycott of Israel comes into play. It is an attempt to create an incentive for Israel to take risks by threatening its economic prosperity. Given the nature of the risks just described, the attempt seems feeble, but who knows? No democratic country wants to become less prosperous.
Kerry, the man who feels he has the most to gain by upsetting the status quo, has now played the economic boycott card. On Saturday, he said:
You see, for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There is talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace.
“Momentary” as in a decade’s worth and counting.
Israeli leaders didn’t take kindly to Kerry’s attempt to take advantage of the boycott movement. Naftali Bennett, the powerful economics minister, responded: “We expect our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not to be their trumpet.”
Yes, one might have hoped for that.
Parliamentarian Tzipi Hotovely said that “Kerry’s unprecedented threats of a boycott are an attempt to terrorize Israel.” Deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, added that Kerry was putting a gun to Israel’s head. Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out that the boycott threats “cause the Palestinians to adhere to their intransigent positions and thus push peace further away.”
Kerry, through a spokeswoman, countered that he “has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts.” But if he is to maintain that “proud record,” he must denounce the boycott, not encourage it by touting it as an incentive for Israel to make concessions.
Kerry must be getting desperate. Otherwise, he would not undermine whatever might be left of his status with Israel as an honest broker by working, in effect, hand-in-glove with those who hope an economic boycott will coerce Israel into taking risks it believes are too great.