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4 april 2014, timecheck: quarter to trouble

Friday, April 4th, 2014

John kerry has put more into the israel-palestinian talks over the last months than anyone since clinton, with dozens of americans shuttling, negotiating, cajoling and even desperately bringing into play sovereign american collateral by offering the release of israeli-spy-in-american jail jonathan pollard. To no avail. Israel stalled on prisoner releases, the palestinians reignited their progress to statehood at the un (see (yet) another (small) step to parastine, 1 december 2012), israel cancelled its prisoner release and the palestinians - well, both sides have proved beyond doubt they were at the table only to humour the americans, with no expectation of ever achieving anything. A decade ago the "peace process" became the alibi replacing peace. Now even that is beyond reach, with the long-drawn out talks and brinkmanship being about prior to process confidence-building measures. Netanyahu has never been in favour of ceding land and mahmoud abbas is seen as a self-serving israeli stooge by most palestinians, who have been denied an election since 2005. Both men have reached the point where the returns on this lost cause are too low. It is israel though that has the most to lose by some way; the palestinians. By contrast, have virtually nothing. Complacent and overconfident, the danger for israel is that the only thing standing between it and the renewed and real momentum gathering behind a new global boycott is america's ability to sustain the belief that israel is a goodie that wants peace. As america now withdraws, having given the process its very best efforts, this fiction is very hard to sustain. At best it is distracted by getting the ultra-orthodox into the army; at worst an insuperable barrier, easily evidenced if you listen to its leaders, such as naftali bennet, its number three, saying "I will do everything in my power to prevent a palestinian state". This total stalemate was entirely predictable, and I was far from alone in doing so (see and so it came to pass, 1 december 2012), as I am in saying the danger of isolation and a boycott that bites is real. Having run out of options to change the status quo, which suits only israel, no-one less than john kerry himself is sounding the alarm, "the risks are very high for israel" he said "people are talking about boycott. That will intensify... Today's status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100%, cannot be maintained." He is right, but is israel capable of listening to the one ally whose willful deafness is its only international shield ?