Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Facts on the ground and John Kerryĺs mediation of the peace negotiations

By Julie C. - November 09, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Peace Process] [negotiations] [John Kerry]

John Kerry giving a press conference in Bethlehem. Photo by Gabriel R.


While the Israeli government recently announced the building of 1,859 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem’s illegal settlements, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated his confidence in future positive outcomes of the current peace negotiations during his visit in Bethlehem on 6 November. 

After visiting a USAID High Impact Microfinance Infrastructure Initiative Site, John Kerry met with Israeli President Ehud Olmert, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas as part of the Peace negotiations. 

The US State Secretary announced the distribution of $75 million (USD) directed to micro-finance projects throughout the West Bank, emphasizing the necessity of a viable economy for the future Palestinian state. 

Yet without condemning Israel’s recent actions and announcements in the occupied territories, the possibility of any fair mediation by the United States and the recent discussions held this week reduce the possibility for the Palestinians of a fair agreement coming from the current negotiations. 

$75 million to micro-infrastructure initiatives in the West Bank

The main announcement of John Kerry’s visit was the distribution of “$75 million [USD] from micro-infrastructure projects that will begin within the next six months.” Added to the $25 million in aid announced in September, the US government has “now committed $100 million to support micro-infrastructure initiatives in the West Bank, and they will help bring real improvement to Palestinian communities and lives,” said John Kerry. 

"One of the projects that we’re talking about is improving three kilometres of roads between now and next May so that we can enhance travellers’ safety, reduce travel times, and promote economic development and tourism. By better connecting Manger Square to the city of Bethlehem, we’ll better connect people with jobs and better connect tourists and pilgrims to this holy place (...),” said John Kerry.

The funding will be delivered through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). This organization has been largely criticized for the nature of the projects it has funded in the past. For instance, it participated in the enhancement of Jenin’s military checkpoint, stating that allowing the crossing of vehicles would increase economic opportunities for Palestinian. Another one of USAID’s projects includes the 2011 funding of 63 kilometres of road in the West Bank. These roads actually facilitate the direct connection between the settlement of Dahriya and the city of Beer Sheva in the Naqab withing present-day Israel, by allowing the Palestinians to avoid the Israeli settler-only roads connecting the West Bank settlements in the area.

One of the main concerns expressed by John Kerry in his Bethlehem speech was the creation of a viable economy in the West Bank, in the perspective of a future independent state. Yet, the only mention of Israeli violations and the settlements— whose presence jeopardize the Palestinian economy by depriving it from vital land—occurred before his discussion with President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas 

“The Palestinians believe that the settlements are illegal. The United States has said that they believe the settlements are not helpful and are illegitimate,” said John Kerry. Although this declaration can be perceived as a stronger stance than the one normally taken by the US government against Israel’s occupation, it still doesn’t acknowledge the illegality of the settlements under International law. 

Promises of peace against facts on the ground

“I want peace with the Palestinians; Israel wants peace with the Palestinians. We agreed three months ago on certain terms. We stand by those terms. We abide scrupulously by the terms of the agreement and the understanding on which we launched the negotiations,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before his meeting with John Kerry in Jerusalem.  

Despite the recent liberation of 26 pre-Oslo prisoners by Israeli authorities, presented as a “goodwill gesture” from Israel for the resumption of the negotiations, no efforts seem to come from the Israeli government and military in attempt to facilitate the peace process, on the contrary. 

In the last two days, about 19 Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank and Jerusalem, according to Ma’an reports; Yousif Mahmoud Tawfiq, a teenager from Qutna was shot with a rubber bullet last Tuesday while walking pass the wall; Hasan Turabi, 22 year-old prisoner inMegiddo jail died on Monday due to medical negligence and 20 prisoners were assaulted after protesting the conditions surrounding his death. 

On Tuesday 2 November, Israeli authorities distributed demolition orders in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Ras Khamis and Ras Shahada, threatening the homes of about 15,000 Palestinians. This distribution came after Israel’s 30 October announcement of the construction of 1,031 new housing units in West Bank settlements and 829 in East Jerusalem. The Israeli government also recently announced the construction of a wall on the Jordanian border, removing any possibility of Palestinian control of their future state’s border. 

90.1% of the Palestinians consider the US’ mediation as biased

US State Secretary John Kerry’s capacity to objectively mediate the negotiations is doubtful. During his visit no comment was made on Israel’s recent announcements, announcements that seriously jeopardize the viability of a future Palestinian state. 

“There are always difficulties, always tensions. I’m very confident of our ability to work through them,” said John Kerry. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his concern “about the progress because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crises, continuing to avoid, run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace".

According to a recent poll, conducted by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University 90.1% of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank consider the US’ mediation of the peace negotiations as biased. 70% of the recently surveyed expect the peace process to fail, and 53% didn’t want to go back to the negotiations table in the first place. 

“Israel deserves security, deserves to live in peace. The Palestinians deserve a state and deserve to live in peace,” said John Kerry. US President Barack Obama, in his visit last September also reiterated US commitment to Israel’s security: “As President I have therefore made it clear America’s commitment to the security of the State of Israel as a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable.” 

$3.1 Billion [USD] is delivered annually to Israel by the US, a large segment of which undoubtedly contributes to the financing of Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the siege of the Gaza Strip. 

Yet, absent from the table of negotiations is a US demand for security for the Palestinians: “Over 73 percent of Palestinian polled [conducted by the aforementioned  Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University] said they neither feel safe for themselves or their families and properties under the current circumstances,” reports Ma’an News

The conditions of Israel’s security are being discussed at large during these negotiations, while promises of commitment to, and hopes for, peace are being made and expressed. Yet, the facts on the ground mentioned above therefore seem to remove, for the Palestinian population, any possible bit of trust they could have had in the peace process as well as any future prospect of justice.  

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