(image by Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
John Kerry returned for talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah this week, bringing a warning that if the peace talks fail, Israel could confront a " boycott campaign on steroids. "
The U.S. Secretary of State also brought a "framework agreement" for the two sides to discuss.
Learning of the contours of the proposed agreement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was quick to voice his opposition.
The agreement reportedly calls for the stationing of Israeli military forces in the Jordan Valley under the noxious pretense that Israel needs that extra layer of protection for its security.
Ira Glunt, writing in Mondoweiss, offers more details on the Ramallah meeting:
"As reported in Ha'aretz, according to a senior Palestinian advisor, the atmosphere at the meeting last night was not good because of 'American pressure.'
The Americans want an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of 10 to 15 years. The Palestinians have publicly stated that they would accept an international military presence in their future state, but would not agree to any Israeli military deployment on their territory."
On his return to Jerusalem from Ramallah, the Secretary had his expected 30-minute drive delayed for more than two hours. Such a delay would be typical for Palestinians on the same journey, but it was not checkpoints that delayed the Secretary. He was driving through the heaviest snowstorm to hit Jerusalem in decades.
Kerry's proposed "framework agreement" is described by Ha'aretz as "an attempt to achieve a breakthrough in the impasse and to force leaders to reach decisions."
Kerry has five months left in his self-imposed time frame to reach a peace agreement. He is trying everything in his diplomat notebook. He warns Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu of a flood of boycotts he could face. He warned Abbas of a delay in the scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners at the end of December.
The two threats are hardly comparable, but then, the status of the occupied and the occupier are also anything but comparable.
Kerry has since backed off the prisoner release delay, a wise move considering that the world's most famous political prisoner, Nelson Mandela, has just been honored and buried in South Africa.
Kerry flew from Tel Aviv to Vietnam after his short visit to Ramallah and Jerusalem. Before his departure, Ma'an reported that he told reporters:
"We are working on an approach that both guarantees Israel's security and fully respects Palestinian sovereignty,"
Kerry also insisted his goal was for both sides "to reach a final status agreement -- not an interim agreement." He added that Israel will release as planned a new group of Palestinian prisoners on Dec. 29.
This is hardly a propitious time for Kerry and Netanyahu to bring more world attention to Palestinian political prisoners. This is especially true after Israel failed to send a top-level leader to attend the Mandela memorial service.