Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected France’s call for an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But before anyone concludes that only “right-wingers” oppose such a conference, it’s worth recalling that one of the most outspoken critics of the conference idea was Yitzhak Rabin.
The year was 1985, and Rabin was Israel’s minister of defense. Arab leaders had been pushing for the convening of an international peace conference. Rabin and other Israeli leaders were insisting on direct Arab-Israeli negotiations.
The Reagan administration had always supported Israel’s position. But in the spring of 1985, there were media reports that Secretary of State George Shultz was starting to warm up to the idea of an international conference. A worried Rabin flew to the United States for top-level discussions.
Upon his arrival in the U.S., Rabin “made it clear he was concerned about Washington’s apparent weakening on the question of an international conference on the Middle East,” according to AIPAC’s weekly newsletter, Near East Report.
“If they are ready to make peace, let’s negotiate [directly],” Rabin was quoted as saying. “If someone wants to undermine any hope of peace, an international conference and bringing in the Syrians is the best way.”
Rabin said that in his meetings with U.S. officials, “I heard about the ‘international umbrella.’ ” That was a phrase that some administration officials had begun using to try to sugarcoat the bitter pill. The idea was that if the conference took place under the “umbrella” of international auspices, it would somehow increase the chances of achieving peace.
Rabin disagreed. “Whenever anyone mentions umbrella, it reminds me of Chamberlain and Munich,” he declared.
Rabin’s statements were pretty remarkable, when you think about it. He had formerly served as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, so he was keenly sensitive to the need not to anger U.S. officials. Yet he publicly leaked the fact that they were using that deceptive “international umbrella” term. Not only did he leak it, he openly criticized it, right there in Washington.
And he didn’t just criticize it, he used the analogy of Chamberlain selling out to Hitler at Munich. For Rabin to stand in Washington and blast the U.S. administration, even invoking a Nazi analogy, was nothing less than astonishing. It really showed what a terrible threat an international conference (or “umbrella”) poses to Israel.
Such a conference, if held today, would consist of a dozen or more Arab and European countries ganging up on Israel and demanding unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. And given reports that the Obama administration wants to see “progress” on this front before the president leaves office, one must assume the U.S. would side with the Arabs and Europeans.
The purpose of the conference would not be to achieve a genuine peace. How do we know? Because the sponsor, France, already declared earlier this year that if the conference failed to produce a Palestinian state, the French would unilaterally recognize one. That’s the goal – not peace, but a Palestinian state, as quickly as possible, no matter the risks to Israel. Which is why the Palestinian Authority’s inciter-in-chief, Mahmoud Abbas, is energetically supporting the conference idea.
During the past year, France has suffered the worst terrorist attacks in the world since 9/11. One would think the French would understand the folly of appeasing Islamic terrorists and oppose creating what would be an overwhelmingly Muslim Palestinian terrorist state. Yet just the opposite has happened.
Why? Because the French are afraid. They are afraid of angering the Muslim world, afraid of more Muslim terrorism. The French believe that since they are defending themselves against ISIS – French planes are bombing Muslim terrorists in Syria and the French police have been shutting down pro-terror mosques – they have to prove they champion Muslim causes. Supporting Palestinian statehood is France’s way of trying to appease the Muslim world.
The international conference proposal is just another way of throwing Israel under the bus. No wonder Israelis – Likud or Labor, right or left – aren’t too excited about that prospect.
A version of this column appears in the Jewish Press.