Standing Firm –To Blame Israel
by Elliott Abrams
April 11, 2014, Council on Foreign Relations
Several well-known members of America’s foreign policy establishment have just published an open letter to Secretary of State Kerry, entitled “Stand Firm, John Kerry.” And firm they are, in blaming Israel for every problem in the peace negotiations.
Criticism of Israel and of the policies of the Netanyahu government is certainly fair, whether from the left or the right. But the criticisms adduced here are not. Why not?
The authors’ (Zbigniew Brzezinki, Carla Hills, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, Frank Carlucci, and Henry Siegman) first point is that the “enlargement” of Israeli settlements is the central problem in getting to peace. They propose stopping all negotiations until settlement “enlargement” ends. One problem with this approach is that it is the Palestinians, after all, who want to change the current situation, end the occupation, and get a sovereign state, so halting all diplomatic activity would seem to punish the party the authors’ wish to help. But there’s a deeper problem: there is no “enlargement” of Israeli settlements. There is population growth, especially in the major blocs that Israeli will obviously keep in any final agreement. But enlargement, which logically means physical expansion, is not the problem and is rare in the West Bank settlements. The authors don’t seem to know this.
Their second point deals with “Palestinian incitement,” a term long used by American officials to describe anti-Semitic statements and actions that glorify terror and terrorists—naming schools and parks after them for example. But the authors’ say nothing about this; they do not mention Palestinian anti-Semitism or the glorification of terror. They say instead that Israel sees “various Palestinian claims to all of historic Palestine constitute incitement.” This is plain wrong. Here’s what Palestinian “incitement” means, as described by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: