My short story “White on White” in Summerset Review in a way suggests the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations shepherded by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The tale offers an updated example of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” So do the negotiations.
According to Tom Friedman in the January 29 New York Times, Mr. Kerry is about to present a “framework” for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He will inform Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that an agreement can be reached only if both sides accept several specific concessions.
Kerry will tell Netanyahu that Israel must concede East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Netanyahu has long championed a united Jerusalem, although most of East Jerusalem is Arab and treated quite differently from Jewish West Jerusalem.
The Palestinians, Kerry will say to Abbas, must forego any right of return to Israel proper and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Whatever concerns Abbas has about Israeli Arabs’ rights—as if human and political rights in the West Bank (don’t bother mentioning Gaza) were particularly meaningful—he, like Netanyahu, must acknowledge reality. If Palestine can define itself—Abbas opposes Jews living in the proposed new country—Israel can do the same.
Update: Yesterday former Israeli Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich stated that Abbas had agreed last May to allow Jews to live in Palestine as citizens. Abbas, however, has never made this public.
The connection to “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is obvious. Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah have refused to call a spade a spade. Claiming that an agreement can be reached without following these provisions is a hoax. Bear in mind that Israel offered East Jerusalem to the Palestinians in previous negotiations. Still, no agreement was reached. The present Israeli government keeps its distance from the former position.
What’s next? The Israeli right will oppose Kerry’s framework and pillory Netanyahu if he shows it support. Friction already exists between Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, a right-wing member of the coalition government. (Semi-disclosure: Bennett is my Israeli cousins’ cousin.) Abbas faces a raging storm. Members of Fatah (West Bank), along with Hamas (Gaza) and Hezbollah (Lebanon), will vilify the framework and renew pledges to destroy Israel. Abbas’ safety will be precarious.
Those who oppose the framework will continue to swear that the emperor is wearing the world’s most beautiful garments. Those who keep silent will remain complicit in the deception. Those with open eyes will see that, as before, the emperor is naked.
Giving public voice to this framework is long overdue. It’s not an endpoint. It’s a foundation. Previous American attempts to bring the parties together without first stating the obvious have been more than misguided. They’ve been dishonest and cruel, falsely raising the hopes of many Israelis, Palestinians and the world.
How will Netanyahu and Abbas respond to the reality that has been haunting us since Oslo? I don’t know. But if they turn their backs on Kerry, the situation will move in an entirely different direction.
The outcome will leave everyone dissatisfied.
Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.
Read the first three chapters of my new novel The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Or go to Green Apple Books on Clement Street or Books, Inc. in Laurel Village.