A half-dozen peace conferences have taken place over the years, and another one is being held in Paris. The “summit” was inaugurated yesterday evening with the dinner of the representatives of 29 states gathered in the French capital. Today, Friday, the focus is on territorial, political, economic, military issues… and so on and so forth.
None of these conferences, not even the one convened in Annapolis by Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen (when Israel would have given the shirt off its back to get to an agreement), has led to significant results. Rather, shortly after their conclusion, we have witnessed outbursts of terrorism, and wars with Hamas.
In this very moment, the French initiative brings along new cold and bad weather forecasts to Paris, and holds a peculiarity from the beginning: the two protagonists have not been invited. Indeed, both Israel and the Palestinians remain at home, while all the other guests impose their opinions about the many questions related to the conflict, but have already issued a warning: even if you, involved parts, will not like it, after the conference we will do as we have decided anyway, and that’s it.
Another peculiarity: while Israel is strongly opposed, Abu Mazen is very happy with this choice. Think about why, and you will soon understand. Just remember that Netanyahu has been calling on Abbas to come back at the negotiating table since 2009, and that he has reiterated his proposal tens of times, while always awaiting a response.
The Palestinians have a few good reasons for refusing direct negotiations: they should accept their counterparts as the representatives of the Jewish state, which they insist on not recognizing; secondly, for what purpose should they strain themselves during the negotiations when they can count on a defense wall as large as the international community?
The latter does not reprimand terrorist violence, does not recognize incitement and anti-Semitism as such, and basically considers a myth the security problem posed by Israel being the only Western democracy in the middle of the Islamist forest.
As the summit was approaching, even the promoters realized that the pomp of the Elysee would not suffice, so much so that the volume of the preparations has been turned down: the policy document that was expected to characterize the summit has become a conclusive sheet to be defined; moreover, the discussions is taking place in a few hours and the presence of the US Secretary of State Kerry (after all, the US is always the deus ex machina) is limited, as he has been saying so far, to “listen to any good idea”.
In the meantime, Netanyahu declared that “the way to peace does not pass by international conferences that seek to impose agreements and that make the Palestinian demands more extreme, thus moving peace away”. Indeed, peace must be achieved through direct negotiations without preconditions. “This is the way we have achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan, and the same must be done with the Palestinians”, he said. “If the Conference wants to do something, it has to ask Abu Mazen to face direct negotiations”.
Actually, another idea of peace process has been circulating since May 17, when al Sisi offered his mediation by relaunching the Saudi plan, which ties an agreement with the Palestinians to the beginning of new relations with the major Arab countries. It’s a anatural opening on the part of the Sunni moderate states, as they share similar strategic interests with Israel (a stop to ISIS, as well as to Hezbollah and Iran), and this new athmosfere may lead to genuine negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanayhu has declared Israel’s interest for this new strategic scenario.
Yes, France has certainly been very capable, but just to show that the way to peace is quite different from the one indicated by its Paris conference.
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale ( 8 June, 2016)