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CONFLICTS

What's really holding up Middle East peace

Secretary of State John Kerry’s non-stop efforts at cementing an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord have failed.Cement” turns out to be an important ingredient in the failure.

After refusing to accept Kerry’s “framework for peace,” Palestinian President Abbas sent two unmistakable signals. He declared that the P.A. would apply for membership in ten U.N. agencies, enroute to unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state—a move that both the U.S. and Israel have long warned the Palestinians not to do. 

No world leader holds Abbas accountable for his part in the breakdown of negotiations -- but Netanyahu received thinly veiled warnings from politicians, “pro-peace” churches, NGOs and pundits of dire economic consequences and international isolation.

For good measure the Palestinian President denied that the Jews even constituted a people.

Kerry had pushed both sides to embrace his plan. 

Turns out his moves were counteracted – deliberately or otherwise – by a consortium of interests that took the weight of that pressure off  Abbas’ shoulders. 

Just a few days ago, 46 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council, passed five resolutions condemning Israel. Only the U.S. voted no. 

These countries, including NATO allies effectively sent a message to Abbas, “Why negotiate at all, when Palestinians can rely on the U.N. to demonize and pressure the Israelis without you conceding anything?”

The votes were truly an amazing spectacle of international moral turpitude, given the continuing butchery in Syria, mass trials in Egypt, and hangings galore by the mullahs in Iran, who lead the world, according to Amnesty International, in the execution of minors. 

Although such U.N. resolutions have done nothing more than sentence successive generations of Palestinians to lives of squalor, the clamor of the crowd is seductive, even if it is an invitation to self-delusion.

Also helping dilute Kerry’s clout were church groups and NGOs, highlighted most recently by events in Gaza. More accurately, by 500 tons of cement. 

That’s the amount used to build a sophisticated reinforced tunnel leading from Gaza to Israeli communities. It was the latest -- and largest -- tunnel to be uncovered by Israel's military. The tunnel was designed for a single purpose: to reignite Hamas’ chief export -- terror.

Previous tunnels were used to burrow past the border to kidnap Israeli soldiers and target civilians. 

One soldier, Gilad Shalit was snatched in Israel, held for five years without any Red Cross visits, and released in exchange for 1,067 Arab terrorists and prisoners, who accounted for the murder of 569 Israelis. 

The discovery of the tunnel should have led the array of civil society and church groups to protest a Palestinian betrayal. They had long demanded that Israel ease her restrictions on the import of construction materials into Gaza. 

Just days ago, Filippo Grandi, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Organization (UNRWA), noted that Israel and Egypt had legitimate security concerns but that Israel's blockade is "illegal and must be lifted." 

He said that while Israel had allowed importation of building materials for a limited number of UNRWA-run projects, another $150 million in new construction material was still blocked. 

The discovery of the massive tunnel was ignored. 

It is true that parts of Gaza still lie in ruin after military confrontations with Israel. But Hamas is responsible for that devastation. 

Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005 led not to peace but to 8,000 rockets targeting Israeli civilian communities, which inevitably brought a massive Israeli military response that damaged infrastructure, especially where Hamas had embedded its fighters and weaponry in schools, hospitals, and apartment blocks. (Most civilians escaped harm, forewarned by Israeli leaflets and text messages to evacuate before an attack.)

As soon as a cease-fire kicked in, Israel was urged to relax restrictions against the importation of cement by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Oxfam, Amnesty International, and the Church of Scotland. 

Those humanitarian calls were misdialed. The 500 tons of cement diverted to the terror tunnels represent many homes that civilians won’t be returning to. 

Hamas understands that it can harm its own people while exporting terror to Israel – all without pushback from Western naifs. 

Abbas, apparently, understands the same. No world leader holds him accountable for his part in the breakdown of negotiations -- but Bibi Netanyahu received thinly veiled warnings from politicians, “pro-peace” churches, NGOs and pundits of dire economic consequences and international isolation.

There is still a way out of the Holy Land morass. 

It involves incentivizing Palestinian leaders and their constituents to choose peace and compromise over conflict, through economic cooperation and growth. That's precisely the kind of activity that got actress Scarlett Johansson axed by Oxfam for daring to support Sodastream’s West Bank operation that treats and compensates Jews and Arabs equally.

As long as civil society and church groups continually send the wrong message to the Palestinians, they will have to take responsibility for deep-sixing the work of John Kerry and all the other real peace-seekers.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Follow the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Facebook and on Twitter.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.