Goodbye boycott: The cost of Kerry’s ‘breakthrough,’ part 2

The tactic of punishing Israel for the occupation was finally beginning to take a psychological toll – then the U.S. secretary of state rode to the rescue.

The Palestinian Authority was planning to go to the UN in September, in line with the 20th anniversary of the failed Oslo Accords, and begin the process of taking Israel to The Hague over the occupation. Israel was scared, with good reason. But now that fear has lifted. Assuming that the preliminary Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington lead to full-blown peace negotiations, which is a safe assumption – the Palestinians aren’t going to walk out on Kerry in the U.S. capital with everyone watching – the PA is committed not to go back to the UN or take any other  “unilateral actions” to further its goals. Instead, it has agreed to play ball with this Israeli government.

So maybe Netanyahu really is blessed. Just when the strategy of punishing Israel for the occupation had finally begun to gain traction, just when the Israeli establishment was genuinely alarmed that the boycott movement had been given a decisive push forward by Stephen Hawking and the EU, and when the PA looked like it would be going to the UN and afterward to The Hague with the wind at its back, Kerry comes along and pulls this country’s nuts out of the fire.

I wrote about the strategic damage done by the PA’s agreement to drop its precondition that Netanyahu recognize the 1967 border as the basis for negotiations.  Here are some thoughts on the tactical damage.

The only tactic that can convince Israelis to give up the occupation – psychological warfare, scaring them off the Palestinians’ back – was actually beginning to work, but now all the air has been taken out of it by these “peace talks.” Though I’m sure the boycott movement will continue, it will be relegated once again to the left-wing margins; it will not move into the mainstream like it did, for the first time, with Hawking and the European Union. Liberals overseas who hate the occupation, and who may have just begun thinking about putting their money where their mouths are, now see that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank – the PLO, Fatah, those guys with the keffiyehs – favor “engaging” with this Israeli government, not penalizing it. So who are anti-occupation liberals overseas to say different? They don’t need to be more Catholic than the Pope. No boycott for them, thank you.

“Mr. President, you should look happy,” Kerry told Abbas before announcing his breakthrough on Friday. I wonder why Abbas didn’t look happy. I wonder why no Palestinians are reportedly happy about it – but Netanyahu is. From today’s Haaretz:

“I pulled the Palestinians down from the tree of preconditions; I didn’t agree to a further freeze of building in the territories; I refused to release 120 prisoners before the talks began; and the 1967 borders aren’t mentioned,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted to his ministers on Saturday.

In terms of strategy, tactics or morale, anybody who thinks the cause of ending the occupation has nothing to lose by Kerry’s stunt should think again.

Barring a miracle, Kerry’s breakthrough is bad news
Endgame: Conditions for the success and failure of the peace process