IPMN Statement on Kerry Initiative
July 25, 2013
Time for Israel to stop the settlements in Palestine
After some high level diplomacy on the part of US Secretary of State John Kerry, the global community is now being asked to celebrate the announcement of renewed peace talks and to meet this news without cynicism. It is a given that everyone with a stake in peace for the Middle East would like to greet this news with optimism and without cynicism. The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is hopeful that this time there will be a real breakthrough that leads to peace.
“We hope that this time, real peace will come to both Israeli and Palestinian people alike. We pray that peace will give Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza self-determination in their own land, and that the Palestinian Diaspora’s right of return will be addressed,” Said Rev. Katherine Cunningham, moderator of the network.
Before examining the current Kerry Initiative for peace between Palestine and Israel, it is useful to revisit the history of such initiatives as seen here:
Our mission network is always hopeful but we ask how the cynics might be silenced when so much is yet the same? Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will not be on the table. A look back over the history of peace initiatives shows that settlement building has never stopped through any talks and we see that the Israeli government keeps building on the land that is the subject of the negotiations. As one observer has put it, it is like negotiating over a pizza but one side keeps eating the slices.
Akiva Eldar, former editorial writer for Israel’s Haaretz logs 10 separate times direct negotiations have been held. He opens with this: “US Secretary of State John Kerry’s July 19 declaration of renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is reminiscent of an observation by Albert Einstein: People who are not sane believe one can do the same thing over and over and expect different results.”
In his statement to the UN Security Council on July 23, 2013, Dr. Riyad Mansour, Ambassador of Palestine to the UN said that Palestinian leaders have never placed conditions on the peace process but have called for international law and UN resolutions to be respected. “Such respect is what will ensure that the negotiations to resolve all final status issues — Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, security, prisoners and water — ultimately result in conclusion of the just, lasting peace we have sought for decades,” said the ambassador. He continued,
… extremist Israeli settlers continue their criminal rampages throughout our country, terrorizing civilians, attacking homes, destroying farmlands and thousands of trees, vandalizing churches and mosques with vulgar displays of hatred and racism, and threatening the sanctity of Al-Haram Al-Sharif [Dome of the Rock]. The settlers act with sufficient support and incitement from government officials, who continue to encourage settler colonization and de facto annexation of Palestinian land.
Unfortunately, Secretary John Kerry has appointed Martin Indyk as a mediator who comes with years of baggage of failed talks and a career launched by working for AIPAC, the Israel lobby. Indyk is not seen as an unbiased broker but as a protégé of Haim Saban, a strong supporter of Israel and its policies. (Indyk is a senior fellow at The Saban Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution). We seem to be limping into this new round of talks with the same old playbook and expecting new results. A real move on Kerry’s part would be to suspend all U.S. military aid to Israel, as called for by 15 American religious leaders including the PC(USA), and condition it to human rights compliance.
M.J. Rosenberg, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network states “At this point, all Kerry accomplishes with his ‘re-engagement’ is to provide the illusion that there is a peace process… for Netanyahu the U.S. role provides cover.” In another column, entitled “The Kerry Peace Initiative is DOA,” Rosenberg continues:
The bottom line is that the Kerry initiative is dead even before arrival. And, sad to say, that is how it should be until the United States looks at the Palestinian and Israeli demands, side by side, and decides, honestly, that there is no moral equivalence between the demands of the occupier and the occupied.
How long will we let this peace process charade continue? It is time for a new way forward; it is time for Israel to stop building settlements on other peoples’ land. We heartily agree with Ambassador Mansour who finished his speech to the UN Security Council this week with the following:
For a genuine process and real progress, it is imperative that Israel affirm its claimed commitment to peace and the two-State solution, not just in words, but in deeds. Settlements must be stopped, prisoners must be released, all collective punishment and military operations must be halted, and it must come to the negotiating table in good faith. Israel must choose peace, security and coexistence over the continued occupation and domination of another people.