The Paris Conference: Another Farce on the Path to Peace
By Lenny Kristal
The road to peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah will pass through those two cities: Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Israelis and Palestinians don’t need grand conferences with dozens of participants, and replete with muted declarations and fancy photo-ops.
Peace is forged through bilateral negotiations, with leaders meeting face-to-face — leaders who are willing to recognize each other, willing to make tough sacrifices and determined to build a better future for their people. That was the case with the Israeli-Egyptian peace in 1979, and that was the lesson of the Israeli-Jordanian peace in 1994. From Northern Ireland to South Sudan, in region after region, direct peace talks alone have brought real solutions.
The Middle East Peace conference in Paris last Sunday — a conference that took place without the Israelis or Palestinians — was yet another unhappy attempt to impose solutions from the outside.
The conference went precisely nowhere, with some countries — including Britain — refusing to back the final resolution, warning that it would only harden the Palestinians’ position.
How do you encourage people to make peace? You help them sit and talk, so they can reconcile and resolve their differences. You prepare them for the need to make painful sacrifices. The Paris conference did neither.
The Paris talks also came hard on the heels of the one-sided UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which claimed that Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem are “occupied Palestinian territory.”
That resolution failed to lay any responsibility for the lack of peace on Palestinian terrorism and incitement. And it failed to encourage Palestinian leaders to step up and meet their obligations.
The Palestinians have walked away from negotiations time and time again, from Camp David in 2000, to Ehud Olmert in 2008 and Paris and Washington in 2014. They refused to negotiate during Israel’s 2009-2010-settlement freeze, rejected the Kerry framework principles and are still inciting their people to terrorism at the highest levels. Yet resolution 2334 spared them from any blame. Instead, it accuses Israel alone of creating, because of its settlements, “a major obstacle” to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
Many see the outcomes of the UN and Paris as reinforcing the Palestinians’ serial determination to avoid negotiating at any cost. Indeed, why should Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu when he has the international community firmly in his corner?
Israel remains committed to the solution of two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace with safe and secure borders. For the Palestinian leadership, the main sticking point is Israel’s right to exist, within any borders. Their refusal to accept Israel far predates the first settlement, which was built after the 1967 war.
If the world’s nations truly seek to advance peace in the region, they must set aside blaming only Israel while turning a blind eye to the culture of Jew-hatred within Palestinian society. There must be an unequivocal message to Mr. Abbas: Stop encouraging violence; condemn terrorism; stop hate speech; stop teaching children to see Israelis as an abomination; recognize Israel as a Jewish state; and renew direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions.
It’s time for the Palestinian leadership to help bring peace closer. Their efforts to internationalize the conflict will only ensure that peace prospects will drift into the sands of the Middle East.