Sunday, April 6, 2014

Re: U.S. to Reassess Status of Talks on Middle East

BATNA examples 2
Ari Bussel sent an email that was actually an email exchange in which the subject was a New York Times article on Secretary of State John Kerry’s high handed efforts to force Israel to concede to the wants and desires of the Palestinian Authority’s desire for a sovereign Palestinian State at the expense of Israel’s territorial viability. Of course the NYT did not present the article that but that is what is happening under the Obama Administration via John Kerry.

The difficulty I am having is in the arrangement of Ari Bussel’s email. Bussel’s reply to his friend is really a great stand-alone article, but then the reader misses some of the context to which Ari Bussel was responding to and also the context of Bussel’s friend’s query about the NYT article to Ari Bussel. So in the end I am going with Bussel’s arrangement, but just in case feel free to read this post backwards. Ari Bussel’s arrangement is his own thoughts, followed by the inspirer of Bussel’s thoughts in Edward Story who in turn was inspired the NYT article by Michael R. Gordon and Mark Landler.

JRH 4/6/14
Re: U.S. to Reassess Status of Talks on Middle East

By Ari Bussel
Sent: 4/5/2014 9:54 PM

Dear Ed,

This was too good to pass; it deserves an answer.

A failure must be recognized for what it is.

One must fight the battles worth fighting.  At the very least, one must know history (and the lay of the ground as well).  A proper amount of strategy does not hurt either.  None was exhibited here.

Admittedly, there was no other choice.  Our President made up his mind, and since he is the Commander in Chief, we had to follow suit.  But at times, it takes courage to stand up and express a different opinion, to challenge a blind following in a wrong path; one that proved time and again (both Republican and Democrat administrations) it leads nowhere.

The only reason the US was involved in this process, whose end result-to-date one could have provided - as I did - with absolute certainty before (or as) it started, is that our President decided to add another Nobel Prize to the one he so richly already deserved (prematurely of course, to any real action to justify such a monumental recognition).

The President must be concerned with one thing, and one thing only - the wellbeing of the country he leads.  And when one positions the Israeli-Arab conflict of the past century on the forefront of the agenda, one misleads himself into a false reality.  The world understands there are more pressing issues.  Why can we not?

As the last few years under the Obama Administration have shown, we have a President who would rush to apply undue pressure on allies - from President Mubarak to the repented Kadafi.  It is the same president who stood idle in regard to the civil war in Syria, where hundreds of thousands were murdered, mutilated, raped, tortured and injured.  Many escaped from their country and are now real refugees (unlike the eternal refugees and their descendants ad infinitum that the United Nations and the family of nations are so focused on perpetuating, cultivating and supporting).  But Syria is not the focus of the US.

Our twice-elected President did wonders elsewhere - with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for instance (how gratifying, refreshing, awakening and effective was the slap on our faces that the infusion of billions from Saudi and the Gulf provided).  And with Iran.  And better yet, with Putin.

While the world is busy focusing on the titans, from Putin to Rouhani, the US, under President Obama, is focused on bringing a final solution to the world's imagined problems - a "peace" between Israel and those who call themselves "Palestinians."  The false supposition we are given is:  If only there were peace in that region, all the world's problems would miraculously disappear. 

Except, Israel is the only stable country in the Middle East, and the "Palestinian" issue that never before bothered its Arab brethren is unimportant to the Arabs now either.  Billions were spent on these "refugees," and to what end?  Is there better infrastructure, maybe schools?  There is only the perpetuation of a myth, to one purpose:  harm Israel and bring her downfall.

Let us try to understand what it is we are promoting.  Israel needs to make "painful concessions."  Israel needs to allow the cancer that has spread to conquer another organ, and another.  Here the liver, there the lungs, alas - the brain too! 

Has anyone fighting cancer ever "treated" the problem by allowing it to spread?  Yes, take over the kidneys, just leave me alone!  We will live, side-by-side, in peace, for ever and ever!  (If it sounds stupid, it is indeed.)

What is clearly needed is not yet another painful concession by Israel or the release of hundreds of murders or terrorists with much blood on their hands.

And America has failed in relaying this exact point.  The "Palestinians" do not want "Peace."  They say so in their own words and they act accordingly.  They feel strength, of a weak world leadership falling into the ditch they dug, getting caught in the web of a thousand and one Arabian nights. 

Besides, who exactly are those "Palestinians?"  We chose a side, clearly the wrong side.  There is a democratically-elected government in Gaza that claims to truly and accurately represent the "Peoplehood," "Nationhood" and the very being of this congregation of clans and tribes.

Possibly if we focused on Hamas, which we declared to be a terrorist organization, we would better serve everyone's true needs.  We would crash the aspirations of those who live in an illusionary world, bringing them back to reality, and we would act - as we should have acted long ago - to crash anyone who promotes terrorism, targets civilians and has no value to human life - theirs, their women or anyone else's.

This is what had to be done, and eventually it will happen.  We must face reality.  Israeli Arabs are part of the Jewish State of Israel.  The vast majority does not want to change the status quo.  The Arabs who for the past 20 years have cultivated an idea they can carve out parts of the Jewish State of Israel and then take over the rest are sorely mistaken, and one must correct them.  "Palestine" under British Mandate extended way beyond the Jordan River.  Today's Jordan, with a majority "Palestinians" is indeed part of the same "homeland," but a homeland to whom is it?

Those who today define themselves as "Palestinians" are descendants of immigrants from Egypt and elsewhere who came to improve their lives.  They came for better economic conditions.  They multiplied and expanded and became numerous as the grains of sand or the stars in the sky.  But that does not provide them ownership of the land or its three thousand year history.

They built huge structures in the air, but they have no roots.  This is why they are working to destroy and remove our own roots.  Temple Mount was never Jewish, they say, and the Jews have no connection to it.  Remove hundreds of truckloads of archeological artifacts and repeat the nonsense so often, one starts believing it.

Imagine our own illegal immigrants claiming that the United States of America does not belong to Americans, never did and that the world must fight with all its power against the very idea, the very evil thought, that Americans call the USA their home.  Well, we are not Mexico, nor do I think that we should ever go back to England because illegal immigrants decided that we have no claim here.  (I must admit, though, that my family has only lived here one century, so we should indeed go back to Europe!)

The difference is two-fold.  First, our history only goes back to 1776, and maybe a few more years, whereas Israel's is millennia in the making.

Second, would any sane American ever raise his head up high and say, "Indeed, we must negotiate with the immigrants to allow them their own cities, rule of law, airports and highways, banking system and infrastructure?"

Will any sane American say "we must stop all construction of homes and apartments since the land is not our land?"

Or maybe there would be someone promoting the imperative that "all prisoners in our prisons must be released since they are 'freedom fighters,' held illegally in American prisons?"

Apparently what we are trying to force upon Israel is something we would not spent a fraction of a thought to apply to ourselves.

Our Secretary of State wanted to force feed Israel a recipe no one wants, needs or can digest.  So it was bound to fail from the start.  The guaranteed defeat is not "Power," nor can anyone word-play it into an achievement.  And at times, it is quite healthy to admit a defeat, regroup, derive the lessons and implement a new strategy.

Let Israel and her enemies work a "peace" agreement among themselves.  No one in the neighborhood, or the world for that matter, trusts this superpower (us) any more.  Those on the ground will have no choice but to fight it out, until one side or the other gives up, or changes its approach.  Regrettably, I am not sure that Israel will have the upper hand in the immediate future, although I am certain we will survive and prevail as we have done for two thousand long years, for Israelis, too, brainwashed themselves with a notion of a "Palestine" and "Palestinian People."  (All, incidentally, taken directly from the textbooks of propaganda taught to Arafat in the former Soviet Union.)

Our Secretary of State, out of "real" concern to Israel's wellbeing and her growing "isolation," came to the rescue.  A rescue that to me looked like an attempt to further drown the person than try to save her or to rape again the victim that was repeatedly and brutally raped out of true concern and care.

Everyone in the immediate neighborhood understands the weakness of the US of A.  The signals are clear:  We are weak.  We thrash our friends.  We are afraid and would not dare act against either bullies or enemies.  We are indeed a great, "Peaceful"-loving nation (like a "religion" that touts to be peace-loving).  In the Middle East, the former Soviet Union and apparently everywhere else around the world, no one would even piss on such a creature.

These are harsh words, so ask anyone who has ever been to a battlefield, say in Iraq or Afghanistan, how are we looked upon in the world, by our own doing.

As much as it aches, this is OUR US OF A.

So let us turn to MY ISRAEL.

Our (Israel's) situation is not much better, at all.  For the past two decades, we have immersed ourselves in an illusion that if we only take parts of Israel and give them away, there will be peace.

What we should have done is quite different, and very simple.

Israel - between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean - is the only Jewish State in the world.  Judea and Samaria (including Jerusalem) should have been annexed.

Every country that has its embassy not in Israel's capital - Jerusalem - should have received a clear, unequivocal message - we only have one capital, where we conduct business, nowhere else.

The minute we start taking ourselves seriously, so would the world.

And the world would like very much what it sees.  It is evident with Putin's acceptance and the reaction to his actions.

One must learn a lesson from Israel's experience (say of the last 65 years):  Being on the defensive can never lead to victory.  We have been on the receiving end for way too long.  Did we forget the benefits of going on the offensive?  Twenty some years is a generation, so today's generation in Israel knows nothing different than capitulation.  But there are still two other generations alive and kicking - one that fought and survived, the other that grew when the wars were raging.  They know.  They have experience.  They should take the leadership.

America should have never approached "the process."  We have further weakened our position by acting like a prostitute:  "Here, take Pollard, give Jerusalem and the Israeli Arab murderers who have been convicted in a court of law for multiple life sentences."  Luckily, Pollard is the first (and one of the only ones) who stood up and said - never!  Do not use me!

Another lesson to learn about character, some would say from a most unexpected place.

In America, too, there must be a change of leadership.  From foreign affairs to domestic disasters, we seem to be proceeding in the direction our Founding Fathers would not have approved.


Ari Bussel
On Apr 5, 2014, at 5:15 PM, Edward Story wrote:

I have not always sympathized with Kerry, but in this case I do. He’s a courageous guy to even take on such a mountain of historical enmity, such an installed structure for continuance thereof, and such a multiplicity of parties – some visible, and part of the controllable process, and many, perhaps even most, not.

One can only hope that, by stepping away, the vacuum itself, will be persuasive to the sides. That said, it is an easy observation, although one that does have substance in many negotiations. Call it, as it often is: “walk away” power. Usually, it refers to one side or the other; in this case it refers to “the third party”: us.

And that moves the thought process toward the now classic term ‘BATNA’ [Blog Editor: Yup it is true. This editor was ignorant to the “now classic term ‘BATNA’. If you are like me you can understand HERE and HERE - Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement] or, as it has come to be described: “the best alternative to a negotiated agreement.”  I would posit, here, that the BATNA is too easy, too simple, too “less painful” than a negotiated settlement may be perceived to be by certainly the Israelis and most likely by the Palestinian power structure, too.

Indeed, the article below ends with:

“Insofar as we find fault here, it is in the inability of either side to make tough decisions,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “For us to continue to invest that kind of bandwidth in the process, we’d need to see some investment from the parties.”

I suggest that the benefits of “peace” (however currently perceived) are not great enough to either side to keep this process – at its current configuration – proceeding toward an agreement. The BATNA is too great – for each side or at least for one of the sides to stop or curtail what momentum may exist.

IF, that is the case, then, other than our symbolically (or actually), walking away from the process, we, if the we – the U.S. – sees real value in a “peace” between Israelis and Palestinians, if this element of peace in the Middle East is truly a “high value target” for U.S. diplomacy, then we would have to figure out how to make the NA (“negotiated agreement”) far more attractive to both sides than the BATNA.

See below and let me know if you come to the same conclusion.

U.S. to Reassess Status of Talks on Middle East
APRIL 4, 2014

RABAT, Morocco — With Israel and the Palestinians falling into a familiar cycle of tit-for-tat retribution, and a peace agreement more elusive than ever, Secretary of State John Kerry conceded on Friday that this week had been a “reality check” for the peace process.

But more than anything, it may be a reality check for Mr. Kerry himself. After eight months of diplomacy, more than a dozen trips to the region and endless late-night negotiating sessions with both sides, Mr. Kerry was forced to acknowledge that he may have hit a wall too high even for someone with his seemingly endless optimism and energy.

As he wrapped up perhaps the most grueling trip in his 14 months as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry told reporters he was flying home to Washington to meet with President Obama to reassess the peace negotiations and whether there was a path forward.

With this latest round of talks at risk of collapse, Mr. Kerry faces a setback familiar to many secretaries of state — the last dozen, to a greater or less degree, have tried and failed to broker a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians — but one that may sting even more, given the enormous personal investment he has poured into it.

There was an echo, in Mr. Kerry’s tone, of a frustrated outburst in 1990 by James A. Baker III, secretary of state under President George Bush, who read out the number for the White House switchboard at a congressional hearing and told the Israelis and Palestinians, “When you’re serious about peace, call us.”

Mr. Kerry is not about to give up on the process. But like Mr. Baker, he is dealing with two parties that are paralyzed by intransigence and fall back on provocations: Israel announcing new Jewish settlements and refusing to release Palestinian prisoners; the Palestinians, in response, applying to join international organizations and issuing a list of new demands.

Defying the failed efforts in Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Kerry has pushed the peace process toward the top of the administration’s list of second-term foreign policy priorities. Declaring at one point that his goal was to achieve a comprehensive peace accord within nine months, he pursued it with his own brand of personal diplomacy — and with a nothing-to-lose zeal characteristic of a defeated presidential candidate who views his current job as the pinnacle of his career.

But as he made clear on Friday, the peace process is just one issue on a crowded plate, from the Iran talks to Russia’s aggressive moves in Ukraine to the civil war in Syria — all of which are competing for the administration’s attention. On Saturday, Afghans go to the polls to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai; in three weeks, Mr. Obama flies to Asia to try to revive his strategic shift to that region.

“We have a huge agenda,” Mr. Kerry said, adding that his commitment to the peace process was “not open-ended.”

Mr. Kerry’s hands-on approach, penchant for reworking his itinerary on the fly and legendary stamina have helped cement the accord to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal. But in the Middle East, Mr. Kerry has confronted a much tougher challenge.

With officials and analysts in the region preparing post-mortems on his efforts — and some finding fault with how he brokered abortive talks on Israel’s promised release of Palestinian prisoners — the White House rushed to signal its support for Mr. Kerry.

At a meeting with his national security team on Friday, Mr. Obama referred to reports suggesting that the White House had reservations about Mr. Kerry’s approach, according to an aide in the room.

“I see a lot of senior officials quoted about Kerry and Middle East peace,” the aide quoted Mr. Obama as saying, “but I’m the most senior official, and I have nothing but admiration for how John has handled this.”

Until recently, the White House had largely left the peace process to Mr. Kerry. But last month, Mr. Obama met separately at the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to urge both to sign on to a framework that would guide negotiations toward a final agreement.

When that effort fell short, the White House authorized Mr. Kerry to offer the release of Jonathan J. Pollard, an American convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, whose freedom Israel has long sought. As part of a quid pro quo, the talks would have been extended through 2015, and Israel would have gone ahead with the release of Palestinian prisoners and slowed down building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East peacemaker who is now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the injection of Mr. Pollard into the negotiation complicated matters for Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Miller said Mr. Kerry was also handicapped by his success in keeping a lid on leaks about the details of the talks over the last eight months. “The zone of silence masks significant, substantial advances on the substance, but he can’t talk about them,” Mr. Miller said.

Analysts in Israel, however, also said Mr. Kerry failed to dispel a perception on the part of Mr. Abbas that Israel’s release of 104 Palestinian prisoners would include Palestinian citizens of Israel. Mr. Netanyahu never agreed to that, saying it would require a separate cabinet decision because it raised sensitive questions of sovereignty.

“The seeds of this were sown at the very beginning,” an official involved in the talks said, on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering Mr. Kerry. “The gap is, what did each side hear from Kerry?”

For all that, some experts said Mr. Kerry was so committed to his Middle East initiative that it was more likely he would push for a change in diplomatic strategy, perhaps by offering an American peace plan, instead of simply walking away from the negotiations.

Robert M. Danin, a former American official involved in the Middle East now at the Council on Foreign Relations, said such a plan would be the last card Mr. Kerry has to play. But given how hard he has pushed this process, Mr. Danin said, “That suggests to me that he may be contemplating a pause but not abandonment of his peace efforts.”

Mr. Kerry, in fact, was careful to leave open the possibility that the United States would seek a course correction, not a pullback. The months he spent nurturing serious talks, he insisted, were not wasted because the two sides had narrowed their differences on some key issues.

On Sunday, American diplomats plan to meet with both Israelis and Palestinians in the region. Even so, American officials said Mr. Kerry told the two sides on Friday that they must shoulder the responsibility of breaking this impasse. Over the coming days and weeks, they said, Mr. Kerry will discuss the prospects for a new approach with members of his team and the White House.

Still, Mr. Kerry also noted that the United States was facing an array of foreign policy challenges that were preoccupying senior administration officials. And the White House made it clear that Mr. Obama’s patience for peacemaking was not boundless.

“Insofar as we find fault here, it is in the inability of either side to make tough decisions,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “For us to continue to invest that kind of bandwidth in the process, we’d need to see some investment from the parties.”

Michael R. Gordon reported from Rabat, and Mark Landler from Washington. Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting from Jerusalem


© Ari Bussel
Edited by John R. Houk

No comments:

Post a Comment