John Kerry: spot the pattern
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest foray into Middle East negotiations should be called the Einstein peace process. Doing the same thing over and over again and still expecting different results is the great scientist’s definition of insanity. This time around, all evidence to the contrary aside, indications are that Kerry actually believes this latest iteration of the decades-old industry known as the ‘peace process’ might really accomplish something. But unfortunately for Kerry, his political calculations are about to run aground on the unforgiving shoals of political reality.
Regardless of Kerry’s beliefs, the timing of this latest version of the talks clearly has a lot to do with the crises erupting across the Middle East region. The escalating civil and regional war in Syria, the growing sectarian and religious-secular divides exploding across the region, and even the Washington-backed Egyptian military’s coup against the Muslim Brotherhood, all reflect broader US weakness and failures in the Middle East. The inability of the US to respond strategically to those challenges is certainly part of why plunging back into Israel-Palestine talks, however repetitive of earlier failures, might have seemed a useful move – for distraction, for reassurance of Israel’s backers, for reassertion of a weakened empire’s fading but still extant power.
But despite all those reasons, these talks are doomed to the same failure as the 22 years of failed diplomacy that precedes them.
Part of the problem lies squarely in Kerry’s stated US goal for the talks: ‘ending the conflict, ending the claims.’ Not ending the occupation, not ending the siege of Gaza, not ending the decades of dispossession and exile of Palestinian refugees. Not basing diplomacy on United Nations resolutions and the obligations of international law. Only ending the tension, the dispute – regardless of which version of current reality becomes the officially agreed upon final status. Then, in Kerry’s world, all Palestinian claims will disappear, and the Palestinians, even if their internationally-recognised rights remain out of reach, will smile, applaud their brave leaders, and politely agree to suck it up. (Israeli claims of course will not have to end, because Israeli claims, all about ‘security,’ are inherently legitimate and non-negotiable, while Palestinian claims – to self-determination, real sovereignty, equality, return – are always political and up for grabs.)
The appointment of Martin Indyk as US envoy to the talks is a further indication that no one intends to change the framework of the last 22 years of failed US-led diplomacy. Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, former deputy research director of AIPAC – the powerful pro-Israel lobby – and co-founder of the AIPAC-linked Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has been central to US-controlled Israel-Palestine diplomacy for years. (For years now, it has become common to see Indyk, Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller and others responsible for 22 years of failed US diplomacy in the Middle East, burnishing their ‘veteran’ status as a credential for continuing their careers.)
This round, like before, will ignore international law, and instead be based on the current disparity of power between occupied and occupier. The pro-Israel US arbiter will determine Israeli positions and Israeli-proposed ‘compromises’ to be ’reasonable’. Israel will continue to build and expand settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank based on the thousands of new permits already in place, while offering some kind of short-term partial delay in granting some number of new permits – and that will be called a major compromise. More than 600,000 Israeli settlers will continue to live in huge city-sized Jews-only settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the talks will be rooted in the understanding that in any final arrangement Israel will be allowed to keep all the major settlement blocs and 80 per cent or more of the settlers right where they are.
Secretary Kerry announced proudly that this round of talks is based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, without mentioning that the ‘new’ US- and Israeli-imposed amendment to that plan stripped it of its potential value – the requirement that Arab normalisation with Israel could come only after ‘full’ withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a just solution to the refugee problem based on UN resolution 194 guaranteeing their right of return. Kerry’s new version ignores the refugees (at least so far) and adopts the US-Israeli language on borders (always said as one word) of 1967-borders-with-swaps. Those ‘swaps,’ of course, mean Israel gets to keep all its settlement cities, all its illegal settlers, virtually all the Palestinian water sources, while the Palestinians will be offered some undeveloped desert land abutting Gaza perhaps, or perhaps a proposal to place Palestinian-majority cities inside Israel, such as Nazareth, under the jurisdiction of the to-be-created Palestinian ‘state’. (There is likely to be no compromise on Gaza – Israel’s siege will remain, strengthened by Egypt’s new post-coup government tightening the closure of the Egypt-Gaza crossing at Rafah – and the Palestinian Authority diplomats are not likely to make Gaza a major part of their negotiating strategy.)
Palestinians, of course, will be expected to accept Israel’s ‘reasonable’ compromises as if both sides, occupied and occupier, have the same obligations under international law. (Oh right, international law doesn’t have a role here.) The price, if Palestinians reject any of those oh-so-reasonable proposals, will be US and perhaps global opprobrium for blocking peace.
Right now some developing countries (South Africa, Brazil) are hinting at somewhat more independent positions towards Israel-Palestine. The European Union’s new restrictions on funding settlement entities, made public just before Kerry’s announcement of the new talks and Israel’s acceptance of them, is particularly important, reflecting the impact of even mild sanctions on Tel Aviv. But while the civil society movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) continues to build, it remains unclear how the governments tentatively backing away from US positions would respond to the collapse of the US-controlled talks, especially if the US claim is that the failure is the Palestinians’ fault.
Israeli violations of international law, the Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions and more remain. The US does not set an end to those violations as a goal of these peace talks – let alone as a precondition. If it did, Israel would have to end its occupation of the 1967 territories and recognise the Palestinians’ right of return unilaterally – ending violations shouldn’t require negotiations. That’s why, ultimately, these talks will fail. Until negotiations are based not on US support for Israeli power but on international law, human rights, and equality for all, the ‘peace process’ will fail and will remain an example of Einstein’s insanity.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant