1) The language of concessions
The Washington Post reports Kerry presses Israel and Palestinians for concessions to pave way for peace talks:
Kerry first visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has resisted new talks for most of the past four years. His government had sought to file a complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court over home-building in Jerusalem but put the plan on hold shortly before Kerry arrived.
Kerry was expected to ask Abbas to drop or suspend the complaint as a way to build confidence among Israeli leaders that talks can be fruitful, Arab officials said.
Israel and Turkey must stick to their agreement to end a nearly three-year estrangement as a building block for wider Middle East peacemaking, Kerry said Sunday.
Kerry did not sugarcoat concern that politics in Turkey could delay or derail the deal struck last month among Obama and the volatile leaders of the two key U.S. allies. Kerry added stops in Turkey and Israel to an unrelated trip to shore up that agreement.
“The foreign minister has expressed very clearly to me, in response to an inquiry by me, that they have taken steps to try to prevent any kind of sense of triumphalism,” Kerry said.
In the first case, what exactly is the Palestinian concession? The Palestinians under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas violated the premise of bilateral negotiations by pursuing cases against Israel in international fora. This was a policy consciously adopted by Abbas and specifically spelled out in a New York Times op-ed nearly two years ago. Abandoning a violation of an agreement is hardly a concession, but the reporter (apparently reflecting Secretary Kerry’s view) calls this a “confidence building measure.” If that’s a confidence building measure then the Palestinians have hit upon an excellent strategy: violate other terms of their agreements with Israel and offer to stop the violation in return for some concrete Israeli action.
In the latter case note the parallelism of the reporter. While he mentions “politics in Turkey” he also refers to the “volatile leaders” of Israel and Turkey. But the “volatile leader” of Turkey is responsible for those politics; what is the “volatile leader” of Israel responsible for. It’s good that Secretary Kerry brought up the issue of tone with Davutoglu, but will he push him? Will Kerry tell Turkey that the country’s leadership is squandering a chance to repair relations with Israel and further American interests and that the United States will hold the government responsible for this failure?
It would appear that the United States has the possibility of using an opportunity here. But will it allow its enemies – I’m including Turkey as an enemy – to dictate the terms of the future of the Middle East, or will it assert itself? Unfortunately, there is little in this article to suggest that the former is true.
2) The language of destruction
Remember the flap a few years ago if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really said that he intended to wipe Israel off the map? It was treated by many as a curiosity. Surely has statement was exaggerated was due to a bad translation or a misunderstanding of Iranian culture and idioms.
Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum and Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segal have put together a comprehensive look at statements and threats (.pdf) made by Iranian leadership over the years. Their conclusion:
It is manifestly clear that the statements of Iran’s leaders continue to constitute incitement to genocide of the people of Israel. They remain alarmingly similar to the coded statements of incitement that preceded the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis in 1994, and should therefore alarm all peace-loving people.
There is ample legal basis for the prosecution of Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.
Perhaps it would be better not to describe Erdogan’s statements about Zionism as a mere “flap.”
3) The meaning of a selection
Jonathan Schanzer analyzes the recent selection of Hamas.
Notably absent in this leadership selection process was Turkey, which has become a rather outspoken champion of Hamas in recent years. Last year, Ankara reportedly provided $300 million to Hamas. It continues to export goods to Gaza and help with costly reconstruction projects after the 2012 conflict with Israel. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan recently announced he would visit Gaza, too. Yet, Turkey does not figure prominently in the new leadership structure (that we know of).
Nor is Sudan’s role reflected in the new make-up, but Meshal is a frequent visitor to Khartoum, where the Bashir regime coordinates closely with the regime in Tehran. While Iran-Hamas-Sudan ties have been documented for years, Haniyeh’s selection, to some extent, reinforces the importance of Hamas’ close ties with both Sudan and Iran, which furnishes short-and long-range rockets and other weaponry to the Palestinian terrorist groups.
In other words, the Hamas leadership selection reflects absolutely no changes in the group’s approach to terrorism or rejectionism. Meshal, during a visit to Gaza in December, vowed that Hamas would continue its strategy of violence against Israel. With a new four-year term, it’s reasonable to expect more of the same.
This attachment to Iran is important, because Egypt – acting out of its own self-interest – has not been the most reliable ally for Hamas recently. A few days ago Egypt seized an Iranian ship apparently bringing arms to the Sinai.
— Aymenn J Al-Tamimi (@ajaltamimi) April 7, 2013
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