Conflict & Justice

Israel-Palestine: on John Kerry's economic peace plan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “signaled a tough line on talks with Israel” yesterday, according to an AP report, doubting US-led efforts to resuscitate negotiations on Palestinian statehood a week before Secretary of State John Kerry is set to return to the region.

Abbas said that he would not consider restarting the negotiations that were stalled in 2008 until Israel stops movement on its settlements, a pre-condition Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects. 

This came following Tuesday’s warning by top Israeli army commander Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, that the “failure to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations could stir unrest in the West Bank.” 

Pre-condition aside, some experts and activists for Palestine reject the premise of the “economic peace” plan Kerry has established as an effort to bridge the divide between the two sides—an effort he referred to earlier this month as the last chance for resuming negotiations. The economic peace plan would boost the Palestinian economy by attracting $4 billion in private investments, Kerry said, expanding the Palestinian economy by 50 percent in three years. Kerry’s trip next week is his fifth visit to the region since February.

Roy Wagner, a member of Israeli activist group Anarchists Against the Wall—an
anti-zionist group that joins Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank every Friday—rejected the notion of relying on talks between high-ranking politicians that he said have no effect on the people suffering daily.

“The premise that we have to have elite politicians solving problems for us economically—while a group of people, based on their ethnicity, are marked as terrorists, while they are losing mobility, livelihood, rights—is wrong,” Wagner said in a Skype conversation with GlobalPost. “It is an impossible situation to resolve this way. The rights should be respected. The occupation should first be ended, and full equality should be given to everyone.”

Still, the economic peace plan persists as what Norman Finkelstein—a controversial political scientist whose primary area of research is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—told GlobalPost is one obstacle in the way of finding a solution.

“The Palestinians are desperate,” said Finkelstein, who is Jewish, but barred from entering Israel because of his contentious stance on Israeli policy toward Palestine. “They will take any crumbs from the master's table. But the only morally relevant question is: Should Palestinians be forced to forfeit their inalienable rights in exchange for these crumbs?”

Speaking on the topic of forfeiture, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday declared the "death of the two-state solution,” citing Abbas’s refusal to give up the demand that Israel accept pre-1967 borders as a starting point. Reestablishing the pre-war lines would make the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem part of a Palestinian state.

"Never, in the history of Israel, have so many people put so much energy into something so pointless," Bennett said during a settler conference in Jerusalem, according to a GlobalPost article.

The announcement echoed last week’s comment by Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis, saying Palestinians "were not ready for a state."

Kerry originally intended to return to the region to resume negotiations on June 11, but he postponed the trip to be present for Syria-related talks in Washington, DC. In anticipation of the visit, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called on the Palestinian authority for an immediate return to the negotiation table.