You may view the 5 minute update this week via audio:
In this week’s 5 minute update, we focused on:
1) The current status of the Israel / PLO peace process
Israel and the Palestinians failed to agree to extend their direct peace talks past April 29. Why did the talks fail? An Israeli government official familiar with the negotiations said: “We would have liked to see a successful outcome to the negotiations. But what we saw was a Palestinian side that didn’t engage in good faith when the Americans put on the table principles for final status. In dealing with the core issues, the Palestinians ran away.”
However, the American version of why the current round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians failed is fundamentally different to the one presented by Israeli officials. The list of those to blame for this failure is also very different. From the US perspective, the issue of the settlements was largely to blame. Senior American officials involved in Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace push shared their take on the talks’ failure. The American team will be disbanded in the coming days – most of it, or all of it. Kerry has yet to decide what he is going to do – whether he will wait several months and then try to renew his effort, or release the principles of an agreement formulated by the Americans. By releasing the American principles, Kerry would force the two sides to play offense – each side in its own internal battleground – but in doing so, he also risks exposing himself to criticism.
Using advanced software, the Americans drew a border outline in the West Bank that gives Israel sovereignty over some 80 percent of the settlers that live there today. The remaining 20 percent were meant to evacuate. In Jerusalem, the proposed border is based on Bill Clinton’s plan – Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians. The Israeli government made no response to the American plan, and avoided drawing its own border outline.
US officials explained that “the negotiations had to start with a decision to freeze settlement construction. We thought that we couldn’t achieve that because of the current makeup of the Israeli government, so we gave up. We didn’t realize Netanyahu was using the announcements of tenders for settlement construction as a way to ensure the survival of his own government. We didn’t realize continuing construction allowed ministers in his government to very effectively sabotage the success of the talks. “There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state. We’re talking about the announcement of 14,000 housing units, no less. “At this point, it’s very hard to see how the negotiations could be renewed, let alone lead to an agreement. Towards the end, Abbas demanded a three-month freeze on settlement construction. His working assumption was that if an accord is reached, Israel could build along the new border as it pleases. But the Israelis said no.”
“President Obama supported Kerry throughout the duration of the talks. The clearest example of that was his willingness to prepare for Jonathan Pollard’s release. Such a move wouldn’t have helped his popularity in the American security system. “It is true that the president was doubtful. That was obvious from the start. He questioned the willingness of leaders on both sides to take the necessary risks. In the end, he realized he was right.”
Kerry talked on the phone with Netanyahu three times a week and sometimes three times a day. There were video conference calls and close to 70 meetings. The relationship of trust between Kerry and Netanyahu was crucial to ensure that Netanyahu tempered his positions and moved forward. During the negotiations, Israel presented its security needs in the West Bank: it demanded complete control over the territories. This told the Palestinians that nothing was going to change on the security front. Israel was not willing to agree to time frames – its control of the West Bank would continue forever. “Abbas reached the conclusion that there was nothing for him in such an agreement. He’s 79 years old. In February, Abbas arrived at a Paris hotel for a meeting with Kerry. He had a lingering serious cold. ‘I’m under a lot of pressure,’ he complained. ‘I’m sick of this.’ He rejected all of Kerry’s ideas. A month later, in March, he was invited to the White House. Obama presented the American-formulated principles verbally – not in writing. Abbas refused.
Abbas demanded the outlining the borders would be the first topic under discussion. It would be agreed upon within three months. A timeframe would be set for the evacuation of Israelis from sovereign Palestinian territories (Israel had agreed to complete the evacuation of Sinai within three years). Israel will agree to have East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. The Israelis would not agree to any of the three demands. We couldn’t confront the two sides with the painful solutions that were required of them. The Israelis didn’t have to face the possibility of splitting Jerusalem into two capitals; they didn’t have to deal with the meaning of a full withdrawal and the end of the occupation.” Abbas refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “We couldn’t understand why it bothered him so much. For us, the Americans, the Jewish identity of Israel is obvious. We wanted to believe that for the Palestinians this was a tactical move – they wanted to get something (in return) and that’s why they were saying ‘no.’ “The more Israel hardened its demands, the more the Palestinian refusal deepened. Israel made this into a huge deal – a position that wouldn’t change under any circumstances. The Palestinians came to the conclusion that Israel was pulling a nasty trick on them. They suspected there was an effort to get from them approval of the Zionist narrative.” As of now, nothing is stopping the Palestinians from turning to the international community. The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end – whether through violence or by turning to international organizations. The boycott and the Palestinian application to international organizations are medium-range problems. America will help, but there’s no guarantee its support will be enough.
The United States is taking a time-out to think and reevaluate. We mean to draw our own conclusions. Kerry’s willingness to return and make an effort depends on the sides’ willingness to show seriousness. Abbas’ conditions were rejected out of hand by Israel. Perhaps someone in Israel will reconsider their positions? Why is a three-month settlement construction freeze such a big deal? Why not draw a map? You have a great interest in an accord reached by mutual consent, rather than one reached as a result of external pressures. Drawing a map should’ve been stage one.” As for what the US will do next, Kerry hasn’t fully decided.
Israel’s deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, expressed displeasure over U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry views and comments regarding the failure of the peace process. Most recently, Kerry indicated in a private event that the failure of the peace talks would quickly lead toward Israel becoming an “apartheid state.” While Israel accepts the secretary’s latest expression of regret for comparing the democratic state of Israel with one of the darkest regimes in modern history, the fact is that this was not a solitary incident. Time and again, Secretary Kerry’s erroneous declarations have come dangerously close to suggesting moral equivalency between Israel and its adversaries. They call into question his administration’s ability to act as an honest broker in our region.
Last July, just three months after the negotiations began, Kerry gave a joint interview to Israeli and Palestinian television channels with the aim of increasing public support for his efforts. When asked by the Israeli reporter why these talks are so vital, the secretary failed to detail what the fruits of a real peace might be for the Israeli people. Nor did he recount the numerous efforts and overtures successive Israeli governments have made toward this end over the years. Instead he bleakly replied with a question of his own, asking, “Does Israel want a third intifada?” By insinuating that if we do not give in to every Palestinian demand to ensure a successful end to the talks, we would return to the era of suicide bombers murdering hundreds of civilians in Israeli city centers, the secretary basically asked the state of Israel to negotiate with a loaded gun to our heads.
Then, in February, while addressing a conference in Germany, Kerry issued another veiled threat at Israel. This time he informed his audience, “the risks are very high for Israel. People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure.” Once again, instead of laying out a clear vision for why the talks he has invested so much time and effort in are in Israel’s interest, Kerry attempted to scare the Israeli public into capitulation. His attempts were viewed here in Israel as a not-so-cryptic message that the United States would no longer retain its steadfast rejection of any boycotts against Israel if our government did not ensure that the talks would end to the U.S. administration’s liking. But a recent warning from Secretary Kerry was especially troubling. Speaking to an audience in the United States, he informed them that a failure to establish a 23rd Arab state alongside the world’s only Jewish state would result in “an apartheid state with second-class citizens.” This comment, made behind closed doors, was made public as we in Israel were marking the solemn day when we remember the more than six million victims of our people murdered in the Holocaust last century in Europe. To suggest that the Jewish people would ever establish an apartheid regime was particularly hurtful.
As a result of failed peace talks, the Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, announced that they have reached a “historic” agreement to end their differences and form a Palestinian unity government. Fatah is the sect of Palestinian Authority President, Mahmood Abbas. Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and they control the Gaza Strip. The agreement calls for the establishment of a Palestinian unity government within five weeks. Six months later, the Palestinians would hold presidential and parliamentary elections. The agreement also calls for “activating and developing” the PLO so as to allow Hamas and other Palestinian groups to join the organization’s institutions. In addition, the accord calls for reviving the Palestinian legislative Council, which has been paralyzed since Hamas drove the Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Similar reconciliation agreements were reached in principle in the past but never implemented. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh praised the agreement, saying “national reconciliation, ending the division and mending the rift has become a national responsibility.” The deal, Haniyeh said, comes “at a time of an assault on the Palestinian cause, assault on the al-Aqsa mosque and a time when the entirety of Jerusalem is being painted Jewish. Today we can say that we agreed about all what we have discussed,” said senior Fatah official Azzan al-Ahmed, adding “so we will forget what happened in the past. The result of the efforts that we have made is clear today, as we agreed on all the points that we discussed.” A Palestinian official said there had been an “agreement in principle” on forming a “government of experts,” a term for a cabinet staffed by technocrats rather than politicians. In making the agreement, Hamas said they would not recognize Israel, although they indicated that they would not obstruct negotiations between the PLO and Israel. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Hamas movement said: “We acknowledge that Abbas’s recognition of the occupation is his traditional position, nothing new. The [Hamas] movement position is unwavering in not recognizing the occupation in any form. In any event, negotiations are the task of the PLO; the government has no part in them,” Abu Zuhri said. “The question of recognition is non-debatable as long as [Israel] occupies our land.” He asserted that the PLO was in charge of negotiations and Palestinian foreign policy, adding that “Hamas is not responsible for the PLO relations with Israel.”
A top Hamas official boasted that the organization’s forces would not be bound to follow instructions from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and dismissed claims that a planned unity government would recognize Israel. Mahmoud Al-Zahar said that no militiamen in Gaza would be under Abbas’s control after a planned interim technocrat government is installed. “The reconciliation deal won’t change the current situation, and the new government’s ministers are to have no authority over diplomacy since it is an interim government,” he said. “The reconciliation deal will not change Hamas at all, and will not bring the organization to recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Activists in the Hamas military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades will continue to operate independent of the unity government under Abbas, as will the armed elements of the Hamas security forces, Zahar clarified. Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad terrorist group is trying to join in on the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement. Their leaders will consider the ways Islamic Jihad could be involved in the unity government.
Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal affirmed that Hamas will not recognize Israel. “Our path is resistance and the rifle, and our choice is jihad,” he said. Mashaal said that in wake of the failure of the peace talks with Israel, the Palestinians were in need of a unified political decision and a joint strategy that would lead to the “liberation of our lands and holy sites and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes.” Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, said the unity pact with Fatah would not change his movement’s position toward Israel. Recognizing Israel is one of the key conditions laid out in the 2003 peacemaking roadmap of the Middle East Quartet, which brings together the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. The other two key demands are a renunciation of violence and acceptance of all prior agreements with Israel. Hamas’s deputy leader, Mussa Abu Marzuq, said Hamas would never accept the Quartet’s conditions. “Hamas rejects the Quartet’s conditions because it denies some of our people’s rights,” he said.
An Israel government official responded to Mashaal’s remarks by saying that they “speak for themselves and expose the myth that Hamas has somehow changed or moderated its positions.” Hamas “remains an extremist jihadist organization committed to the destruction of Israel,” the official said. “It is clear that Palestinian leaders cannot come to Israel and say they want peace if they forge an alliance with these killers,” he said, referring to Abbas. Nevertheless, Israel’s message to the international community is that if Abbas reneges on the pact with Hamas, or if it falls through, the direct talks that fell apart last week could be restarted. However, he said, if the Palestinian unity accord is “consummated” and a Palestinian unity government backed by Hamas is established, “we will look at what the alternatives are.”
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that the Fatah-Hamas unity deal was unexpected. That deal, he noted, “came as a complete and total unannounced event, without any heads-up, so to speak, at the moment of important negotiations.” U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called on Secretary of State John Kerry to publicly state that there will be an immediate cut-off of relevant U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) should its new unity government fail to comply with the detailed requirements set forth by the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. In a letter to Kerry, Kirk and Rubio said: “As you know, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 sets detailed requirements for the continuation of U.S. assistance should Hamas be brought into the Palestinian Authority government. The law is very clear,” they wrote in the letter. “If Hamas comes to have a role in governance, there must be public acknowledgment of the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist as well as acceptance of all previous agreements the Palestinians have made with Israel, the United States, and the international community,” the senators wrote. “The law also requires that demonstrable progress be made toward dismantling of Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure and purging of individuals with ties to terrorism. Moreover, Hamas would need to halt its anti-American and anti-Israel incitement. The bar is high because the stakes are high and we must make sure to stand firmly by what we have said. Failing to do so will diminish the credibility of the United States,” added Kirk and Rubio. “Unfortunately, we have already seen reports that influential voices within Hamas say a unity deal would not compel Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” they added. “It seems clear, therefore, that the current plans for the Palestinian Authority continue to disregard the assurances needed to support Israel’s security and move the Palestinian people further away from the day when they can live in peace. Under the unity deal as we understand it, no effort whatsoever will be made to disarm Hamas or even request that it renounce terrorism before joining the PA. Having an armed terrorist group, which is still committed to violence against Israel, as part of the PA government should make that government ineligible for American aid,” they continued. “We urge you to state publicly that there will be an immediate cut-off of relevant U.S. assistance unless there is full compliance with the letter and spirit of all provisions in the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.” Hamas has been blacklisted by the US since 1993 as a terrorist organization.
Other issues in the peace negotiations was the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Israeli negotiators were willing to work with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his team on the wording of the desired declaration, towards a formula that would have described the Jewish people’s and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in precisely equivalent terms, and would have also included phrases to guarantee the rights of Israel’s Arab minority. The Palestinians, however, were adamant in refusing to consider the idea.
In the negotiations, the Israelis proposed a formulation that would acknowledge that both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people mutually recognize each other’s rights to sovereignty in the framework of an agreement that would end all remaining claims. Israel offered to formulate the declaration in terms that would explicitly state that a recognition of the Jewish state does not in any way impact on the status of non-Jewish Israelis, and does not coerce the Palestinians into accepting Israel’s historical narrative. “The goal of the process was to receive mutual recognition for two nation states, and that both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have national rights,” a senior Israeli government official said. The phrasing proposed by Israeli negotiators was “based on total parity,” this official said. “We were prepared to be creative with the language, but not the concept,” the official added, asserting that Israel was exceedingly flexible regarding the wording of the intended formulation. The Palestinians, however, resolutely refused to accept the very concept of such recognition, he said, even if it was entirely mutual and included explicit clauses to alleviate their concerns.
Israel Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has stressed, however, that asking the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not aimed at endorsing a particular historical narrative but seeks to guarantee mutual acceptance of Israeli and Palestinian legitimacy. The approach proposed by Israel in the negotiation room was designed to address all Palestinian concerns. Since the mutual recognition would be contingent on the successful resolution of all other core issues of an agreement, the right of return of Palestinian refugees would no longer be an issue. Furthermore, the rights of Israel’s non-Jewish minority would be guaranteed and Israel was ready to include a sentence stating that the Palestinians would not be forced to co-opt any historical narrative. The Palestinians refused adamantly to consider Israel’s proposal, and were backed by the Arab League, which at a summit in Kuwait in March expressed “total rejection” of Israel’s demand for recognition as a Jewish state.
As a result of Palestinian rejection of Israel as a “Jewish state”, Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, intends “to submit a basic law to the Knesset that would provide a constitutional anchor for Israel’s status as the national state of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said at the Tel Aviv site where Israel’s Declaration of Independence was signed on May 14, 1948. “The Declaration of Independence sets, as the cornerstone in the life of the state, the national Jewish identity of the state of Israel,” he said. “To my great regret, as we have seen recently, there are those who do not recognize this natural right. They seek to undermine the historic, moral and legal justification for the existence of the state of Israel as the national state of our people.”
A new Basic Law declaring Israel a Jewish state would largely be symbolic, an Israeli official said. “It is declaration to show that this is part of our national ethos.” While Netanyahu assured that while he intends to cement Israel’s status as a “Jewish state” in legislation, it will not harm the country’s non-Jewish citizens. “The State of Israel will always preserve the full equality, in personal and civil rights, of all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, in a Jewish and democratic country. And indeed, in Israel, individual and civil rights are assured for everyone, which sets us apart in the large expanse of the Middle East and even beyond.”
However, Israel Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who is Israel’s chief negotiator in the peace process said that she would oppose any attempt to disrupt the delicate balance of Israel’s Jewish and democratic values, regardless of who is behind it. Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to advance a new Basic Law which would enshrine the state’s Jewish status, Livni pledged “to continue to defend Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state, and by no means will we allow for the weakening of democratic values and their subjugation to the Jewish ones. This is the essence of the Declaration of Independence and this is the basis of our existence,” Livni said. “Just as I have rejected initiatives like this in the past, I will do it [again], no matter who is suggesting them,” she added.
In response, Netanyahu said: “It is strange for me is that it is those who call on Israel to make concessions in Judea and Samaria because of their obvious wishes to avoid a bi-national state, that are the very same people who object to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, while at the same time can support the idea of a Palestinian national state.”
In addition, the Palestinians officially became signatories in five UN human rights conventions to which they appealed on April 1. Member of Fatah Central Committee Nabil Shaʻath stated that Palestinian leadership would re-take political actions on the international level after peace negotiations with Israel failed. The International Criminal Court is one of the 63 international agencies and treaties the Palestine Liberation Organization will seek to join. “We will proceed with the [United Nations] treaties and gradually join different agencies and the last will be the International Criminal Court, ” said Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the PLO’s central council. Such a move would allow the Palestinians to bring cases against Israel of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, Azzam Al Ahmad, one of the Fatah leaders that is behind the tie-up with Hamas played down the prospects of pursuing ICC membership. “To avoid annoying and confusing the United States, we decided to put joining the ICC issue away,” he said. “We don’t want to look like the one that put up an obstacle.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s aides said that he would again try to get the sides back to the negotiating table after a pause of several months. Instead of admitting failure, aides said Kerry would continue his Mideast negotiations push after a hiatus of several months. After an initial domestic political boost, the aide predicted, Israeli and Palestinian officials would be forced back to the table by the long-term need for a two-state solution. “It’s a matter of time before they all come back,” the aide predicted, “and want to have negotiations.” “Both parties still indicate that they feel it’s important to negotiate and want to find a way to negotiate,” Kerry said. “So we believe the best thing to do right now is pause, take a hard look at these things and find out what is possible and what is not possible in the days ahead. I personally remain convinced that as each (side) sort of works through the reasons that things began to become more difficult in the final hours, there may be quiet ways within which to begin to work on next steps,” Kerry said. “What has not been laid out publicly and what I will do at some appropriate moment of time is make clear to everybody the progress that was made,” Kerry said. “These eight months – eight months plus – were not without significant progress in certain areas. And I don’t think anybody wants to lose that progress.”
An agreement to divide Jerusalem and establish a PLO state is a tribulation event.
The link to these articles are as follows:
1) Hamas, Abbas’s PLO announce reconciliation agreement
2) Haniyeh: Palestinian unity government within five weeks
3) Kerry: Hamas-Fatah Pact Was Unexpected
4) Palestinians become signatories in 5 UN human rights conventions
5) Shaʻath Calls for Popular and International Action after Israel foiled Peace Talks
6) Palestinians may seek to join International Court
7) Hamas: Our Gaza forces won’t take orders from Abbas
8) Islamic Jihad Seeks to Join Hamas-Fatah Pact
9) Mashaal: Hamas remains committed to jihad against Israel
10) Hamas Reiterates: We Will Never Recognize Israel
11) Senators to Kerry: Aid to PA Should be Conditioned
12) Palestinians risk US aid freeze if Hamas joins government
13) ‘Kerry will resume push for Israeli-Palestinian talks after pause of several months’
14) Kerry says he’ll pause, reassess after Israeli-Palestinian peace bid
15) Inside the talks’ failure: US officials open up
16) Israel Will Not Be Threatened
17) Abbas rebuffed bid to find mutually acceptable wording on ‘Jewish state’
18) Netanyahu to promote Jewish state legislation
19) Livni bashes PM’s plan to codify Israel’s Jewish status
20) ‘It is Impossible to Have a Bi-National State’
From a Biblical prophetic perspective, the reason why the God of Israel would allow these events to happen is because it will result in the end of the exile of the house of Jacob and the reunification of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ephraim and Judah).
We will to be “watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem” and we will not rest until the God of Israel makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62).
Shalom in Yeshua the Messiah,
Hebraic Heritage Ministries Int’l