Israeli Leaders Place More Obstacles in Kerry’s Path

by Mitchell Plitnick

US Secretary of State John Kerry was shuttling between Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday, shoring up support for his efforts to find some kind of framework for negotiations that Israel and the Palestinian Authority could both sign on to. But back in Israel, the difficulties Kerry faces became even more apparent.

First, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that, while he believed the deal Kerry envisions is the best Israel is likely to get, he would not support any peace deal that did not involve transferring Arab towns in Israel to the Palestinian Authority. In other words, Lieberman is insisting on a condition he has long held that forces the expulsion from Israel of some significant number of its Arab citizens. That is something that even the United States will find difficult to endorse, although most in Congress probably would have no problem with it (as long as AIPAC pushes them in that direction). The PA is not going to accept that condition, so Lieberman is basically putting a poison pill inside conciliatory language.

By the end of the day, Yuval Steinitz, a far right wing member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud coalition and Minister of Intelligence, Strategic Affairs and International Relations, stated that Israel could not accept anything less than a sole Israeli military presence for an indefinite period in the Jordan Valley, a clear non-starter. Steinitz made this statement despite the insistence of the former head of the Mossad that the Jordan Valley was not a vital security concern or Israel, so one has to wonder about the motivation for Israel’s insistence on this point.

And in between, Steinitz set off a row in a cabinet meeting by presenting the latest update of the so-called “Palestinian Incitement Index,” and claiming it is proof that the current negotiations are futile. Minister of Justice and lead Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians Tzipi Livni took umbrage at that, and must have been even more convinced of her own irrelevance when the Prime Minister, though stopping short of agreeing with Steinitz that the talks were futile, agreed with him that the report reflected hatred of not only Israel but of Jews in general and that this was why the talks were not succeeding.

The report in question was recently compiled, according to the Israeli media, but the conclusions seem to be virtually identical to the one that was issued one year ago and is available in powerpoint format at the Prime Minister’s web site. Most of that report is simply a rehash of familiar Israeli claims, with some threadbare innuendo mixed in with a few examples of youth contributions to school Facebook pages that do reflect some very objectionable images and statements that are clearly anti-Semitic. It is the greatest stretch of argument to claim that this report (compiled by the Netanyahu government itself) can amount to the “core reason that peace is unattainable” as Netanyahu has repeatedly claim.

The link above takes you to the report, which you can judge for yourself. There is no doubt that some of the images and messages are offensive, even classically anti-Semitic, and, as a Jew, this author was certainly bothered by them. But nothing there indicates to my eyes anything like the pattern of indoctrination of hate that the Netanyahu government has claimed.

On a personal note, as a Jew who has been the victim of anti-Semitic violence in my youth, I am highly sensitive to such images as the objectionable ones in the report. I hope that more thoughtful members of the Palestinian community will intervene against such images and the ideas they reflect. But they are not indicative of some massive conspiracy among the Palestinians to indoctrinate youth into a culture of hate. As the Israeli peace activist (and former Irgun militant) Uri Avnery has pointed out, Israel, with its killings, closures, denial of rights, destruction of homes, confiscations of land and other activities, does this quite adequately all by itself. Conflict breeds hate of the other, and the effect is visible for Israelis as well as Palestinians.

It is precisely to stop that very cycle of suffering that the occupation needs to end and Palestinian rights and security, hand in hand with Israeli rights and security, need to be firmly and equally established and protected. Unfortunately, that is still not the approach the United States is taking.

Mitchell Plitnick

Mitchell Plitnick is a political analyst and writer. His previous positions include vice president at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace. His writing has appeared in Ha’aretz, the New Republic, the Jordan Times, Middle East Report, the San Francisco Chronicle, +972 Magazine, Outlook, and other outlets. He was a columnist for Tikkun Magazine, Zeek Magazine and Souciant. He has spoken all over the country on Middle East politics, and has regularly offered commentary in a wide range of radio and television outlets including PBS News Hour, the O’Reilly Factor, i24 (Israel), Pacifica Radio, CNBC Asia and many other outlets, as well as at his own blog, Rethinking Foreign Policy, at You can find him on Twitter @MJPlitnick.



  1. Some Israelis say the border of Israel sjould be redrawn to exclude areas in Israel with too many Muslims. (Where “practicable”)

  2. I still don’t understand why Kerry embarked on this effort? In my mind, there never was any chance of success. Another example in futility. Perhaps this was the design, to show once and for all, that the present Israeli Government will never compromise. After all, the U.S. can at least say that they gave it their best shot, so also is is going to wash its hands of being Israels back up, regardless.

  3. @Norman – – I should think John Kerry sees zero chance the US would not back Israel, in years to come.
    Who has the money in the US?

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