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January 17, 2017 7:58 am

5 Reasons the Paris ‘Peace’ Conference Failed

avatar by David Harris

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US Secretary of State John Kerry and French President Francois Hollande, at the Jan. 15 conference on Mideast peace in Paris. Photo: State Department.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and French President Francois Hollande, at the Jan. 15 conference on Mideast peace in Paris. Photo: State Department.

As I said repeatedly in the build-up to Sunday’s gathering in Paris of representatives of 70 countries to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the AJC has long supported the search for an enduring peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state accord.

It is precisely in that spirit that we voiced our concerns about this conference, believing that it would be irrelevant at best, and harmful at worst, to the pursuit of a deal.

Now that the conference is over, our concerns can be summed up in five points.

First, as should have been crystal clear by now, the Palestinians have avoided the only place where an agreement can be reached: the bargaining table with the Israelis. Therefore, every diplomatic end-run only emboldens the Palestinians to believe — mistakenly, of course — that they can achieve their goals without the tough negotiating required of face-to-face talks.

Second, Israel rightly felt that its own concerns were ignored by the conference, which Prime Minister Netanyahu called “futile” and “rigged.” Antagonizing and isolating one of the two principal parties to the conflict is not a strategy for success.

Third, the conference took place exactly five days before the transfer of power in the United States. President-elect Trump and his team didn’t hide their objections to the gathering, and it is very possible that there will be some form of “payback” after January 20th.

Fourth, France didn’t help its own quest to be an “honest broker” in the conflict. Indeed, one nation, the United Kingdom, laudably demonstrated why. To the credit of London, it adopted a hands-off approach, saying in an official statement: “We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them …. and which is taking place just days before the transition to a new American President when the US will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement. There are risks therefore that this conference hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace. That’s why we have attended in an observer status and have not signed up to the communique.”

And last but by no means least, this conference sought to mobilize the world only against Israel. Other pressing issues cry out for attention and resolution, but to no avail. Syria, above all, represents by far the greatest human tragedy of the 21st century. Yet all the time, effort and investment of the Paris gathering went into the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and not to Syria — or, for that matter, to the other failing and disintegrating states in North Africa and the Middle East, or to the brazen Russian attempt to divide Europe against itself while continuing its occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and so on.

This conference is thankfully now behind us. But what lies ahead remains the empty Palestinian seat at the negotiating table. When it is filled, then, perhaps, we can look forward to the proper framework for seeking the ultimate goal: two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace.

This article was originally posted at The Huffington Post and The Times of Israel.

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