Israelis and their supporters have begun to voice fears that peace talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry set to resume this week could have the dangerous side effect of sparking new violence, as has occurred in the past when past talks failed.
Former left-wing Labor Party Knesset member Einat Wilf said the new talks fill her with “dread” while Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party is concerned the talks could lead to more violence.
Those fears are not unfounded. After President Bill Clinton hosted the Israeli-Palestinian peace summit at Camp David in 2000 -- which ultimately failed to produce a peace treaty -- then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat launched the “Second Intifada” Palestinian uprising, which was estimated to have taken the lives of 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians from 2000 to 2005.
“For more than 20 years, peace talks meant more terrorism and more death. The more serious the talks got, the greater the number of violent deaths,” Wilf wrote in Al-Monitor (emphasis added).
Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference in Washington with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, left, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, on July 30, 2013. (Getty Images/Win McNamee)
“The closer the negotiations came to addressing the core issues that have been tearing apart Israelis and Palestinians for decades, the worse the violence became. The more gut-wrenching the decisions that were discussed, the more the crazies on both sides emerged from their holes to kill, maim and send all chances for peace up in flames,” she wrote.
“Negotiations for peace have become so associated with terrorism that in the 1990s, its victims were called ‘victims of peace.’ We on the left, myself included, were so obsessed with peace that we insisted that negotiations continue despite the vicious acts of terrorism, as proper tribute to those ‘victims of peace,’” she added.
Wilf said that the last few years, in which there have been no negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, the number of those killed on both sides “has been the lowest in decades, perhaps even in the entire history of the conflict.”
Israel National News reported that Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein said trying to resolve all of the problems between the parties will result not only in more violence, but also more international efforts to boycott Israel.
And a new poll reflects just how difficult it will be for Kerry and President Barack Obama to succeed this time around where other American policymakers have failed. The Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University found that 63 percent of Israeli Jews “oppose a withdrawal to the 1967 lines with land swaps as part of any peace arrangement with the Palestinian Authority” even if it means Israel would continue to hold onto the three most populated Jewish settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, the Times of Israel reported.
Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine wrote (emphasis added), “There may be no objective reason to believe that the new round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will succeed and a good chance that they will actually make things worse in the Middle East.”
“But that hasn’t stopped Secretary of State John Kerry’s fans on the op-ed pages of our leading newspapers from continuing to applaud his efforts,” he adds.
Even the diplomat that Obama tapped as “Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations” voiced pessimism in a radio interview just a year-and-a-half ago about the prospects for a peace agreement.
Martin Indyk told Israel Army Radio then that he’s “not particularly optimistic.”
“So it may be possible to keep the talks going, which is a good thing but I find it very hard to believe that they will reach an agreement,” he said.
“The [second] intifada was a terrible human tragedy, but it was made worse by a failure of imagination on the part of U.S. negotiators. Thinking no harm could possibly come from ‘giving peace a chance,’ they failed to foresee how dashed expectations and rank cynicism on the part of the players could spark a war,” wrote Kim R. Holmes in a column in the Washington Times (emphasis added).
Kerry has invested time and prestige in getting the sides together, having visited the region six times in the six months since he assumed office. He has also expressed confidence in his abilities to solve a crisis – in nine months no less - that has eluded scores of diplomats before him.
And to get a taste of what lies ahead, Kerry has already received angry letters from the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships just days before talks are set to resume.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat complained about Israeli plans to build new housing for Jews in the West Bank, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the Palestinians in his own letter to Kerry for continuing to incite the Palestinian population against Israel.
Netanyahu pointed out that even after peace talks resumed on July 31, Palestinian Authority officials continued to call for Israel’s destruction. He noted a statement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that not a single Israeli would be allowed to live in a future state of Palestine.
“Incitement and peace don’t go together,” Netanyahu wrote. “Instead of educating the next generation of Palestinians to live in peace with Israel, the education of hate poisons them against Israel and lays the groundwork for continued violence and terror.”
“The aphorism that trying and failing is better than not trying at all does not apply, because trying, and certainly trying and failing, means going back to a time when there was fear in going to cafes and buying pizzas and terror in getting stuck in traffic behind a bus,” former Israeli lawmaker Einat Wilf said.