Opinion: Kerry seeking framework for peace

January 31, 2014


— For Secretary of State John Kerry, diplomacy has centered on what might be called the art of the interim deal. He has tackled two of the world’s toughest issues — the Iranian nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian problem — and has fashioned tentative formulas outlining the shape of a final accord even though the parties are far from such comprehensive settlements.

Kerry’s tool has been the “framework agreement.” He seeks to bring the parties together on an initial document that frames the issues and sweetens the bargaining with confidence-building measures. When Kerry hits impasses, he can turn to rollover agreements that extend the discussions for another six or nine months while the participants try to crack the final-status issues.

Kerry has used this phased approach in his two ambitious diplomatic campaigns over the past year. In November, he brokered an interim agreement with Iran in Geneva that froze that country’s nuclear program for six months while the parties attempt a permanent deal. Both Iranians and Americans privately doubt a final pact can be reached in that time frame, but if good-faith bargaining continues, Iran and the P5+1 group may agree to extend the interim freeze another six months. The U.S. has officially been mum on any such extension.

Kerry is trying something similar on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which for a generation has been the diplomatic world’s version of “Mission Impossible.” Kerry got the two sides to agree last July to open negotiations and make friendly gestures. Now, with his nine-month window set to close in April, Kerry is drafting an interim framework agreement for this problem, too.

President Obama stayed in the background on both sets of negotiations last year, but he cited them in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Fair enough: Obama made Iran and the Palestinian issue priorities when he took office in 2009. He got burned politically on both during his first term. But he has found in Kerry a secretary of state who was willing to embark on what were widely viewed initially as diplomatic suicide missions. 

Both issues may still prove insoluble: Listening to Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett at a conference here Tuesday, it was clear how vehemently the right-wing settlers’ movement he represents would oppose a Palestinian state. “Our forefathers and ancestors and our descendants will never forgive an Israeli leader who gives away our land and divides our capital,” Bennett said, his voice almost a shout. 

Yet the prospect of a framework agreement, of the sort Kerry is seeking, seemed tantalizingly close in comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the gathering, which was sponsored by the Institute for National Security Studies.

Netanyahu told the conference that the U.S. was compiling a document that would summarize the points that have emerged during the months of secret Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He said that Israel might agree to further talks under this framework, while not accepting all the U.S. ideas, as long as the Palestinians agree to a demilitarized state that guarantees Israel’s security and accepts Israel’s status as a homeland for the Jewish people.

Abbas said in televised remarks to the conference that he might be willing to accept a phased, three-year Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and continued presence by other military forces, as ways of satisfying Netanyahu’s security concerns. Amos Yadlin, a retired chief of Israeli military intelligence who heads the institute that hosted the conference, described Kerry’s goal: “It’s a framework agreement, or an agreement on a framework, or an American piece of paper,” he said, but the aim was to roll forward the negotiations for another nine months.

The White House has backed Kerry’s attempt to pull together the parameters that have emerged in the negotiations, rather than simply striving for another round of confidence-building measures, such as Israeli releases of Palestinian prisoners and Abbas’ restraint from taking his case for a Palestinian state to the United Nations. As in the Iran negotiations, a framework agreement would patch over what are still wide differences on a permanent, final-status agreement. But they would reduce the risk of outright conflict while diplomacy continues.

Obama and Kerry argue that diplomatic engagement should be seen as a sign of continuing American engagement in the Middle East, rather than as part of U.S. withdrawal. That’s true, but it’s also a strategy for buying time. The success of this approach requires that the interim version becomes permanent — which is still a very long bet in both cases. 

— David Ignatius is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Abdu Omar 4 years, 3 months ago

So Israelis go to the wailing wall and pray that these negotiations fail. "We don't want peace", they cry! Is this the way to try to solve an ongoing problem that killed millions and left both sides with nothing? When will people see that the Jewish homeland is not attainable because these people are imposters? They may call themselves Jews but do Jews really want to pray for more war, for more bombings, more bulldozing homes, shooting inhabitants (including children) and keep this terrible costly (to Americans) debacle from coming to an end? Is this really a Jewish prayer? I am sickened to believe that anyone would pray for more war!!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

Wow! Millions? Jews "don't want peace"? The original inhabitants of the land are imposters? Jews shoot children? Costly to Americans? I wouldn't even know where to start on that one.

You obviously don't know any history, current events, or any Jews. But, it's not your fault. You've been brainwashed. I suspect that watching television instead of reading international publications from various countries has something to do with it.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm still just stunned at your comment.

You obviously have no concept of what the Hebrew word "Shalom" (שָׁלוֹם) means. Everyone that has ever been to a Jewish worship service knows what it means, it means "peace." It is prayed for repeatedly, you can't possibly miss that. To pray for anything else at the Kotel, such as you claimed happens, would be a sacrilege. Over and over, you hear that word in all the prayers. War, except in self defense, is certainly NOT a Jewish value. But, there are other religions that believe otherwise.

But, I doubt that you've ever been to a Jewish worship service and heard Shalom prayed for repeatedly. In fact, the most common greeting at a Jewish Temple or synagogue is "Shabbot shalom", meaning very generally, "peace be with us this Sabbath." An appropriate response is "Gut Shabbes" [ɡʊt ˈʃabəs]", meaning in Yiddish, "Good Sabbath." It actually means more than that, but that's the general idea.

But, if you ask most American Jews what the Hebrew word for "war" is, you're most likely to get a blank stare in return. Very few, except maybe the rabbi, know how to say that word in Hebrew or Yiddish.

Apparently you are trapped in your cultural context. It is possible to overcome that, but it would require a lot of study. And, you would have to accept that a lot of the things that you have been told by people that you trusted are not at all representative of reality.

And, I have to wonder about this claim of yours: About one out of five Israelis are Arabs. Do you sincerely believe that they go to the Kotel and pray for war, along with the Christian, Druze, Buddhists, and Jewish Israelis?

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

Friendly gesture: Releasing murderers from prison. Yet, Secretary of State John Kerry has not made made an offer to release Charles Manson from prison as a reciprocal gesture. The Palestinians have no prisoners to release, because they're dead.

The original inhabitants of Judea and Samaria from over 2,500 years ago apparently have no rights, because the Arabs, who have been there only since the year 800 or so, claim the land is all theirs. Why isn't Jordan required to make any compromises? They took 77% of Palestine to form their country! And, Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank for 19 years with no international mention at all. And, Egypt illegally occupied the Gaza Strip for 19 years also, but the Arabs had no problem with that.

An interesting quote:
“Why is it that on June 4, 1967 I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a 'Palestinian'? We did not particularly mind Jordanian rule. The teaching of the destruction of Israel was a definite part of the curriculum, but we considered ourselves Jordanian until the Jews returned to Jerusalem. Then all of a sudden we were 'Palestinians.' They (Arabs) removed the star from the Jordanian flag and all at once we had a 'Palestinian' flag.”

“When I finally realized the lies and myths I was taught, it is my duty as a righteous person to speak out”.
- Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist

John Kerry should insist that all Americans of anything other than Native American decent give up North America and go home, since North America belongs to the Natives. But I have heard no calls for that.

But, it is possible that a fair agreement will be reached. I tend to doubt that, because of what is happening in Syria. Why isn't that one of the "world’s toughest issues?"

I can answer that question. It's because Israel is not involved. If Muslims kill each other over sectarian issues that are beyond the understanding of Western minds, that's fine with other Arabs. That's nothing new, it's been going on since the Sunni-Shi'ite split in about the year 800.

The United States' viewpoint is colored by viewing a Middle Ages mindset from a 21st century viewpoint. We just don't understand it.

There is a parallel in Western history, and that's the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and other horrifying actions taken in the name of the Holy Catholic Church, which represented the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth to most Westerners. But, the Reformation mostly ended those atrocities in the 16th century, although the lingering effects of it, such as slavery, continued for hundreds of years after that.

I have hope, though. One of my Facebook friends is working on the Reformation of the Islamic faith, and if she and other like minded individuals are successful, Islam will gain its rightful reputation as a mighty force for world peace.


Joshua Cain 4 years, 3 months ago

"John Kerry should insist that all Americans of anything other than Native American decent give up North America and go home, since North America belongs to the Natives. But I have heard no calls for that." RH

Great point. I've often thought that the Israeli state was similar to the colonial theft of Native American lands. To me there are a lot of paralles between the Native Americans and the Palistinians. Confiscation of land. Marginalization of the race. Less rights and privledges.

The US is in no position to lecture anyone on what is moral and right about the appropriation of land. We have zero credibility.

If a two state solution is the answer can we at least go back to the 1947 boundries? What can be said about the Lehi and it's terrorist tactics and placement of personnel in Israeli politics?

Name this quote from 1948: "Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the "Freedom Party" (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine."

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

1) There are some statements in your comment that aren't quite correct. For one thing, there was not a European presence in North America for about 2,500 years before Christopher Columbus sailed here. But there was a Jewish presence in Israel for about 3,000 years, although it was not always a majority.

"Confiscation of land."
A lot of the land was paid for with money that was considered good at the time, and that dates back to the 1890s. Now the Palestinians want it back, but they aren't interesting in repaying the money or the accrued interest, of course.

And, a lot of Arab property was abandoned when five Arab nations told them that they would kill all the Jews in the war of 1948. After that, they could have all of the Jewish property, just go take it. They were told it would take only a few hours, so come back tomorrow. But, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia lost the war. And then, the Arabs that left, having chosen the losing side, became refugees, and that's where the people that call themselves Palestinians (since 1967) came from.

Amazingly, they are the first refugees in all of history to inherit refugee status. That is because no Arab nation will accept them, not even the Arab nations that their ancestors came from, or, for the younger ones, no Arab nation will accept them as a citizen of the nation they were born in. Again, that is a new one in all of history.

There were few to no Arabs in what is now Israel before about the year 800. But, the Arabs and their descendants that stayed in their homes, as the Jewish government urged them to do, became the Israeli Arabs. None of them have any interest in becoming a citizen of Palestine if it becomes a nation. They give it lip service, but they know that their standard of living and rights will fall a great deal if they give up their Israeli citizenship.

"Marginalization of the race."
It is true that many Israeli Jews don't trust Israeli Arabs. But, that is an individual feeling, and there are good reasons for it. For instance, five members of the Fogel family were murdered with knives in the middle of the night in Itamar, Israel, by Arabs who broke into their home. Their reason? They hated Jews.

But, to balance the above, the massacre shocked many Palestinians as well as Israelis. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, described the killings as "inhuman and immoral".

"Less rights and privileges."
Again, that is a statement of the feelings and actions of individuals, not the state of Israel. All citizens of Israel are equal under the law, but again, it is very true that Jews are mistrustful of Arabs, and some, but of course not all, Arabs dislike Jews.

Joshua Cain 4 years, 3 months ago

"A lot of the land was paid for with money that was considered good at the time, and that dates back to the 1890s. Now the Palestinians want it back, but they aren't interesting in repaying the money or the accrued interest, of course."RH

Not only was it a fair price but more than fair. Upwards of about 1,000/acre. What interest me the most is the land that was not paid for?

"There were few to no Arabs in what is now Israel before about the year 800."RH

What was the Jewish population prior to the immigration after the Ottoman Empire falling?

How can the gradual reduction in Palastinian land be justified?

Something just doesn't look quite right.

Something just doesn't look quite right. by Jc

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I've seen that meme before, and it isn't accurate at all. It was drawn by someone with an agenda, and none of it is sourced. Maybe you should also post an ownership map of Manhattan Island, New York from 1500, so we can compare it to the present day ownership.

There is another important factor, and that is that ownership of land in Israel and the territories is not at all the same as it is here. Most of the land is sold on a long term lease, as it is in large portions of Hawaii. Here we purchase it, and then consider it to be our permanent property until we choose to sell it.

And, in 1946, if you made the claim that you were a Palestinian, it very often meant that you were Jewish. Arabs did not want to be called Palestinians then, it's a new thing to refer to themselves by that term, only dating to 1967. So, a lot of that dark green was owned by Jews that considered themselves to be Palestinians. So, in that respect, that map may be partly accurate. It's like selling a used car - be sure to leave some facts out if you want to convince someone of something.

And why does it leave out Trans-Jordan, later named Jordan? In 1922, Trans-Jordan seized 77% of Palestine. That's not reflected on your map at all.

The answer to your question: Due to the Ottoman Empire's restriction of Jewish immigration, the Jewish population was only 60,000 when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. And, the non-Jewish population was 600,000. Of course, that was for all of Palestine, which included what is now Jordan.

"The Arabs made a mistake in 1947 when they rejected the UN partition plan"
- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

This is a much more accurate map of Palestine:

Map of Palestine

Map of Palestine by Ron Holzwarth

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

If you read the fine print on that map, you'll see that it's the Palestine United Nation's (U.N.) Partition plan, proposed in 2012.

It was supported by U.A.R., U.M.S., U.M.N., United Muslim Federation, Muslim Defense Network, Islamic Cooperation Council, Muslim Solidarity Committee, the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States.

But, I don't think anything like that will happen within the next 100 years. I certainly hope that after that period of time, the present day conflicts in the Middle East will be solved, and instead of spending money on munitions, it will be spent on improving the lives of the citizens.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

2) You mentioned race as though Jews and Arabs are a different race. That's not true at all, they differ in religion, culture, and outlook on life, and that's it. Plus, with conversions in and out of the two religions over the centuries, they're not really different races at all anymore.

Someone who was raised in the West and accepts western values will never understand this:

"We tell them, in as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and martyrdom."
- Palestinian Authority cleric Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri.

That is what John Kerry is up against. It's going to be tough.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

These are portions of two comments that I made on this forum in the past, and I believe they are applicable to this discussion:

February 17, 2012
"The first thing you need to understand about another culture is that you cannot understand it."

July 17, 2013
"I don't believe it's possible to understand a foreign culture very well at all, unless a person has lived in it for quite some time, and accepts its values."

Jonathan Nyp 4 years, 3 months ago

John Kerry is ethically Jewish. In your opinion, does that hurt his status as impartial arbiter of peace? How many ethnic Palestinians are in positions of power in the U.S. government.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

Apparently you did not read my comments above very closely. An ethnic Palestinian is very likely to be a Jew, except after 1967. And, the Palestinians of today all came from other countries originally.

But, you may be thinking of an Arab in a general way. In which case, I would have to say that not very many Arabs are in positions of power in the United States government because that requires a great deal of education, which is not highly valued in Arabic societies, as a general rule.

That's why so very few books are written in Arabic, so very few Nobel prizes are awarded to Arabs, so very few innovations are from Arabic countries, and so very few highly technical products are produced in Arabic countries.

As opposed to Israel, where all of the above is produced in prodigious amounts, despite the fact that there are only about 15 million Jews in the world, and 1,620 million Muslims.

Jordan is Palestine

Jordan is Palestine by Ron Holzwarth

Jonathan Nyp 4 years, 3 months ago

How can you say that an Ashkenazi Jew is the same ethnicity as a Palestinian Muslim/Christian?

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I might not have been very clear in my comment above. Before 1967, Jews that were residents of Palestine considered themselves to be Palestinians, and they aren't the same ethnicity, because an Ashkenazi Jew is from a totally different culture and religion as a Palestinian Muslim/Christian, and an Ashkenazi Jew's ancestors for the most part, except for conversions, came from Israel, which the Romans renamed Palestine (actually, Philistine, which is interesting because the letter P does not occur in the Arabic alphabet) in the year 70. About 730 years later, Arabs from other Arab nations, who have called themselves Palestinians since 1967, arrived.

A Palestinian Muslim/Christian's ancestors most likely came from the Arabian peninsula, instead of what is now present day Israel. But they won't likely be a problem for much longer, because many, but of course not all, Muslims are very busy with an ethnic cleansing program to get rid of anyone that is not a Muslim.

Jonathan Nyp 4 years, 3 months ago

Or are saying Palestinians (pre 1967) were of the Jewish Faith?

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

No, that is not true at all. Prior to 1967, there were Christians, Jews, and Muslims all living there. Some have claimed that they all lived in harmony, but that is far from the truth.

Prejudice is not a new thing, and in lawless areas, it reaches extremes, such as progoms. That's an interesting word, it means a mass murder of Jews. As far as I am aware, there is no other English word that describes mass murders of the members of only one religion.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I did not address one of your questions, that is the one about John Kerry being an "impartial arbiter of peace."

You can just forget that one. I don't believe he understands the issues at all, and he thinks he is going to solve everything by talking really nice to everyone. That is not going to work.

And I strongly suspect he doesn't really have an interest in a solution anyway, instead he's trying to advance his political career. He hopes to become the President of the United States someday, and he thinks that an effort at this project will advance him toward that goal. Of course, that's just my personal opinion of him, which is rather low.

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