Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets Israeli delegation in Ramallah, May 17, 2016.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Representatives from more than 20 countries are set to convene in Paris on June 3, to plan a peace conference in the fall that would lead to the renewal of talks to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli and Palestinian representatives are not invited to this initial Paris meeting, nor is it clear how peace talks would be conducted in the autumn.
Israel officially opposes the French initiative, because it rejects the talks-about-talks framework in favor of direct negotiations between the parties concerned. Israel believes that such a group approach by non-interested parties is doomed to fail, because the Palestinians would exploit it as another excuse to avoid direct talks on a two-state solution – which they have been avoiding successfully for years.
During his meeting last week with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “I’m ready to clear my schedule and fly to Paris tomorrow,” adding that he hopes the offer is taken up by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, while knowing he would not.
The Palestinians have eschewed offers of direct talks for the simple reason that they expect international forums, such as the upcoming meeting in Paris – not to mention those at the stacked deck of the United Nations – will impose Palestinian statehood on Israel without the PA having to make any of the compromises necessary to sustain such an agreement.
“Peace just does not get achieved through international conferences, UN-style. It doesn’t get to fruition through international diktats or committees from countries around the world who are sitting and seeking to decide our fate and our security when they have no direct stake in it,” Netanyahu told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Israel, Netanyahu said, is committed to two states for two peoples. What he means by this, he told Valls, is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.
While Netanyahu spoke diplomatically with the French representative, he spoke much more forcefully to the public in January, in the midst of a then-ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism: “The Palestinian murderers do not want to build a state – they want to destroy a state, and they say this openly. They want to murder Jews simply because they are Jews, and they say this openly. They do not murder for peace and they do not murder for human rights.”
While Israel remains committed to dialogue with the Palestinian leadership and calls for the renewal of direct peace talks without preconditions as soon as possible, the Palestinian leadership has rejected all Israeli proposals for direct negotiations for the past seven years – behavior that is consistent with the failure of direct talks with Yasser Arafat in 2000.
At Camp David in 2000, then-prime minister Ehud Barak made a generous peace offer that met virtually all of the Palestinian demands. Arafat rejected it and the Palestinians then launched the second intifada.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert followed this with an even more sweeping offer in 2008. Abbas did not even respond to it.
Israel has withdrawn from vast swaths of Arab territory in pursuit of ending a conflict that is not about territory.
Leaving Sinai, southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip were painful concessions that have so far reduced threats, but not brought about peace.
“We didn’t freeze the settlements in Gaza, we uprooted them,” Netanyahu observed to the UN in 2011. “We did exactly what the theory says: Get out, go back to the 1967 borders, dismantle the settlements.” This did not prevent the 2014 Gaza war.
Abbas told the General Assembly that the Palestinians are armed “only with their hopes and dreams” – yes, but also with Grad rockets supplied by Iran, Netanyahu retorted, “not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from elsewhere.”
The PA declines to condemn Palestinian attacks on Israelis and glorifies the murderers of Jewish civilians as heroes, naming parks and streets after them, and providing their families with incentives. The indoctrination of a new generation of Palestinians with vile anti-Semitism continues unabated in Palestinian schools, planting the seeds of future terrorism.
By agreeing to the Paris initiative, the Palestinians are again hoping to get a state without the sacrifice this requires. Once more, as Abba Eban said, they are not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.