The 70-nation conference on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in Paris on Sunday included neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives and was a farce and a fraud—but could have been still worse.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the conference represented the “last twitches of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different—and it is very near.”

It was, of course, one of the reasons the conference was farcical: although Secretary of State John Kerry was in attendance, he was representing an administration that is in its last five days in office, and whose policy of harassing Israel was—among much else—repudiated in the U.S. elections two months ago.

France, the host and convener of the conference, was hardly in a stronger position: the Socialist government of François Hollande is on its last leg and its path, too, is expected to be jettisoned in the upcoming French elections.

Israeli columnist Prof. Eyal Zisser notes that “in the actual Middle East…no one gives France a second thought and no one is taking its peace initiative seriously.” It was, after all, France that led the misguided Western assault on the defanged Qaddafi regime in Libya and reduced that country to jihadist chaos; and it is France that has sat impotently while its former colonies, Lebanon and Syria, have fallen under Hizballah rule in one case and into Hobbesian mayhem in the other.

And as David Harris has pointed out, France’s credentials as an honest broker on the Israeli-Palestinian issue are also less than sterling:

at the World Health Organization General Assembly in May…France voted in favor of a measure that bizarrely singled out Israel by name as the only country in the world accused of undermining “mental, physical and environmental health,” and…France could do no more than abstain at UNESCO in April on a resolution that denied any Jewish (and Christian) link to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

At Sunday’s conference, none of this prompted an ounce of humility on the part of Hollande and Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, or deterred them from drawing the de rigueur moral equivalency between Palestinian terror and Israeli home construction.

If this is what Netanyahu meant by the “last twitches of yesterday’s world”—a world in which the West has been obsessed for decades over Israeli home-building while its errant policies have helped turn the Middle East into crumbling chaos—then one can only hope Netanyahu’s optimism is not misplaced.

Foreign Minister Ayrault, however, went a step further.

It was on Saturday that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, visiting the Vatican, issued a dire warning against moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying: “Any attempts at legitimizing the illegal Israeli annexation of the city will destroy the prospects of any political process, bury the hopes for a two-state solution, and fuel extremism in our region, as well as worldwide.”

If “fuel extremism in our region, as well as worldwide” sounds like a threat of terrorism, and an effort to get others to intimidate the incoming Trump administration out of transferring the embassy to Israel’s capital—that indeed is what it was.

A few hours later Osama Qawasmeh, a spokesman for Abbas’s Fatah movement, was more graphic, saying that if the embassy is moved “all chances for peace and stability will be lost. The gates of hell will be opened in the region and the world.”

And it was that chorus to which, at Sunday’s conference, the French foreign minister lent his voice, stating that moving the embassy would have “extremely serious consequences…. When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue.”

Translation: the “old world” insists that when it comes to Israel, the West’s role is to knuckle under to Arab and Muslim bullying, making Jerusalem the world’s only capital to be devoid of other countries’ embassies. If this “old world” is truly on the way out, it cannot disappear soon enough.

So much for the deeply objectionable side of Sunday’s gathering. The event also yielded some relatively good news.

Israeli officials reportedly welcomed the fact that the conference’s final statement was much less harsh toward Israel than last month’s UN Security Council Resolution 2334, and “credited the efforts of [Israel’s] National Security Council and…Foreign Ministry” for achieving that result.

The officials also welcomed Kerry’s promise in a phone call to Netanyahu that the U.S. would rein in any further Security Council vilification of Israel—a promise to be tested in the administration’s waning days.

Also encouraging is that Britain, under Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government, refused to sign the conference’s final statement, claimed it would merely “harden positions,” and said it had “particular reservations” about the lack of Israeli and Palestinian representatives—in other words, about the fact that the conference was an empty farce.

A new era in which conservative Western administrations, with the U.S. and Britain taking the lead, could treat Israel with diplomatic decency and take a clearer view of the Middle Eastern reality it deals with? Time will tell.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.


The Paris Conference Will Drive Peace Further Away

Another spectacle. Another photo-op to say “I care” and to feel like “I’m doing something”. But the cause of peace will be set back. This is what the Paris Middle East Peace Summit is about.

It’s in Paris but it’s not about the Middle East; it’s only about Israel. It’s in Paris but it’s not about peace; it’s about leaders patting each other on the back and posing for pictures.

If it were really about peace, the summit would help the Israeli and Palestinian leaders sit and talk so they can reconcile and resolve their differences. It would prepare them for the need to make painful sacrifices, because the prize of peace is worth it.

The French-Palestinian conference in Paris on 15 January 2017 is about to do just the opposite. Instead of urging the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table with Israel it will reinforce that leadership’s serial determination to avoid negotiating at any cost.

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians does not need grand conferences with dozens of participants, replete with empty declarations. To promote peace, the nations of the world need simply to tell Palestinian leaders the truth: that peace requires reconciliation with Israel and the only way to achieve that is through direct negotiations. The ‘International Community’ needs to tell the Palestinians that Israel is a partner for peace and is ready to make painful sacrifices, as indeed it has in the past. World leaders need to tell the Palestinians that they will have to accept difficult compromises with Israel on borders, refugees, security and Jerusalem; to tell them that this is the only way to bring hope and a better future to their children and the generations to come.

The road to peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah passes through just that – Jerusalem and Ramallah. Not New York. Not Paris. Not through international forums, resolutions, or futile conferences. Peace is paved through bilateral negotiations, with leaders meeting face-to-face, ready and willing to work with each other. That was the case with the Israel-Egypt peace in 1979; that was the lesson of the Israel-Jordan peace in 1994. From Northern Ireland to South Sudan, in region after region, direct peace talks alone have brought real solutions.

On the heels of December 2016’s one-sided UNSC Resolution 2334 which, amongst other things, shamefully designates Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory,” the Paris conference is slated to serve as yet another platform for renewed and deliberately selective censure of Israel. It will likely become another international forum that will fail to place the necessary responsibility at the feet of Palestinian leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly entreated Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to meet him, yet instead of joining and endorsing those entreaties, the international community prefers to incentivise Abbas’s deliberate avoidance of this direct contact. Indeed, why should Abbas negotiate with Israel when he so effortlessly can have the international community lay the blame on Israel, even as it turns a blind eye to the culture of hate and violence frothing under Abbas’s nose in Palestinian society?

Israel has said yes – and continues to say yes – to any opportunity, any time, any place, to have direct negotiations with the Palestinian leadership without preconditions. But the Palestinians have run away from negotiations time and again, from Camp David in 2000, to Ehud Olmert in 2008, and Paris and Washington in 2014. Through cherry-picking issues in order to appease the Palestinians, the conference in Paris will only entrench this Palestinian intransigence and perpetuate the conflict, thus hurting the Palestinian people rather than helping them.

The Palestinian effort to ‘internationalize the conflict’, enabled by world leaders including New Zealand’s, allows the Palestinian leadership to avoid a final status resolution on these lines. Indeed, this perpetual evasion only proves that the conflict has never been about a Palestinian state. It is – and has always been – about Israel’s right to exist, within any borders. The solution to the conflict requires that the Palestinians be willing to live alongside Israel, rather than seeking to replace it.

If the world’s nations truly seek to advance peace, they should therefore send a clear, unequivocal message to Abbas: Stop encouraging violence and terrorism, stop promoting hate speech, and stop educating Palestinian children to kill Israelis. Teach them that Israel is here to stay, and that peaceful relations with Israel must be the foundation of a future Palestinian state.

While the bloodbath rages in neighboring Syria, world leaders are busy convening yet another display of misguided hubris, that demands nothing from the Palestinians. As such, the Paris conference is a meeting of yesterday. It is anti-Israeli, and anti-Palestinian; it is anti-peace and counter-productive. The international community can – and must – do better.

Originally Published in Shalom Wiki.