The French are frustrated. The “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians has failed repeatedly and the French have no more patience for this nonsense. So what do they do? Walk away, wash their hands of the whole messy business? Certainly not. Instead, they come up with the greatest nonsense of all: they call for a new round of negotiations at an international peace conference and if the negotiations fail, they will recognize a Palestinian state.
This is an astonishing example of how not to bring adverse parties together. Why would the Israelis ever agree to play with such a stacked deck? Why would the Palestinians ever agree to any compromises given that they win if the conference fails?
The French concept emanates from an ideological view of the conflict as a “real estate dispute,” with Israel the greedy land grabber and the Palestinians the poor dispossessed peasants.
Never mind that in 2000 and 2008 the Palestinians walked away from Israeli offers to create a Palestinian state on almost all of the West Bank (and Gaza). Never mind that, after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Palestinians turned Gaza into a terror base rather than a proto-Palestinian state. Never mind that the Palestinian leadership refuses to acknowledge that Israel is what it is, a Jewish state, and insists that five million Palestinians have a personal right to “return” to pre-1967 Israel. Never mind the incitement to violence.
Never mind anything that contradicts the hyper-simplistic, post-modern mantra that this is all about settlements and occupation.
This is not France’s first effort to take a leading role in Middle East diplomacy. In December 2014, France floated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a two-state solution that set a quick deadline for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. Israel opposed the initiative as Israel insists upon bilateral negotiations without preconditions. The French proposal did, however, address a key Israeli concern. It anticipated that the Palestinians would acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. Not surprisingly, that was a non-starter for the Palestinians. The French proposal, or at least its “Jewish state” component, went nowhere. The focus shifted to a Jordanian draft that, of course, did not include a Jewish state concept, but did require Israel (among other unacceptable provisions) to withdraw to the 1967 lines as the basis of negotiations. When the Jordanian proposal came up for a vote on December 30, 2014, France (reluctantly, it said), voted yes. But the U.S. voted no and the U.K. and several other members abstained. The proposal did not garner enough votes for passage.
Notably, both the French and Jordanian proposals effectively would have superseded Resolution 242, which the Security Council adopted in the wake of the Six-Day War. Resolution 242 is the bedrock principle underlying any peace process, including the Oslo Accords. It is generally understood to mean that, as part of a final negotiated two-state settlement, Israel will not withdraw from all of the West Bank territories it sized in 1967. It will not withdraw to “Auschwitz borders,” as Aba Eban put it at the time.
Now France appears headed towards another push for a Security Council resolution, likely along the lines of its previous effort, but unlikely to include a “Jewish state” component. Given the Council’s current membership, such a resolution would probably receive enough votes to pass, unless the Obama Administration exercises its veto. In light of the tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, that cannot be taken for granted.
As for the French, it is remarkable that their muscular response to domestic anti-Semitism has so little carry over in their Middle East diplomacy. The Hollande government has shown no tolerance for the eruption of anti-Jewish violence at home. Yet, in its apparent willingness to reward Palestinians with statehood in exchange for nothing, it seems to close its eyes to the vicious anti-Semitism emanating from the so-called moderate government of Mahmoud Abbas, and its pernicious effect on any peace process.
The current “knife intifada,” in which Palestinians, including children, attack Israelis with kitchen knives has not come out of nowhere. This bizarre and unprecedented terror is not the “natural” result of occupation, as its apologists contend. It is rooted in the Jew-hatred propagated by the Palestinian leadership for decades, including Abbas himself.
Examples abound. In November 2014, Abbas’ Fatah Web site carried a viciously anti-Semitic cartoon. It portrayed rats, each emblazoned with a Jewish star, swarming at the base of the al Aksa Mosque, gnawing away its foundation to the point of its collapse. Headshots of Abbas and Arafat – the present and past leaders of Fatah – adorn the top of the page.
Substitute the Reichstag for the Mosque, and this cartoon could have graced the cover of the notoriously anti-Semitic Nazi magazine Der Stürmer.
An aberration? Unauthorized? Hardly. The expertly done Fatah graphic, portraying Jews as vermin attacking Jerusalem’s holiest Muslim site, is clearly part of the Palestinian leadership’s campaign of incitement.
Thus, in September of last year, as the latest wave of Palestinian violence was in full swing, Abbas accused Israelis of “desecrating” al Aksa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with their “filthy feet.” Referring to Palestinian rioters on Temple Mount he said, “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah.”
Two weeks later, the U.N. raised the Palestinian flag at its New York headquarters.
The Palestinian leadership’s overt anti-Semitism and the violence it has spawned would not be tolerated in France for a moment. Yet, somehow, France and its EU partners seem to think that Israel’s unwillingness to make unilateral concessions on settlements justifies granting statehood to this profoundly failed non-state, one whose leadership overtly promotes religious hatred and violence. Of course, it is precisely this hatred and violence (hardly dissimilar to the hatred and violence ravaging Israel’s Arab neighbors) that is at the root of Israel’s perceived unwillingness to make the concessions that Israel’s detractors fallaciously insist are the cause of the conflict.
For post-modern Europeans, this is apparently an inconceivable concept.
If France’s international conference initiative fails, as it must, and the battle ends up at the Security Council, the U.S. must stop this travesty, and exercise its veto. If it does not, the move to deligitimize Israel will be given a tremendous boost, Palestinians will be no closer to real statehood and the international order will have suffered yet another damaging blow.