This Friday’s one-day “peace conference” in Paris, convened by the French government to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has a wearisome, all-too-familiar look to it: same farce, different day.
Representatives of some 20 political entities will be sharing their “thoughts” about the conflict for several hours, sandwiched between photo opportunities and a fine meal. Thankfully, such reliably constructive actors as the Arab League, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have been invited.
France, which in diplomatic matters famously regards itself as superior to all others, and to the US in particular, has looked a good deal like Abbott and Costello when it comes to the Mideast. Eager to curry favor with its large Muslim population in advance of upcoming elections, it recently backed a Palestinian resolution in UNESCO denying any link between Jews and Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Within days French President Francois Hollande announced that his government’s vote was the result of a “misunderstanding.”
The government that was unable to “understand” what the Palestinians were seeking to do by its UNESCO gambit — and so many others like it — or to “understand” the ceaseless Palestinian con job, will be chairing the peace conference. That should come as excellent news for those hoping for peace.
The French have said that their purpose is “saving the two-state solution” and “bringing the parties back to the negotiating table.” This is a head-scratcher, since the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected the two-state solution and have refused to negotiate with Israel for many years now, rejecting its request for negotiations as recently as last week. It is hard to believe that anyone is fooled at this point by the Palestinians’ song-and-dance, since all they have done since time immemorial is to say “no” to the very independent state they say they want — the independent state that would end the occupation that they declare with a straight face is the cause of the conflict.
“The Palestinians are not able to agree to any resolution that doesn’t involve them getting 100 percent of what they want,” says David Roet, Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.
The record bears him out. In 2000, 2001 and 2008 they were offered an independent state on virtually all of the West Bank, all of Gaza and a capital in East Jerusalem. All they had to do was say “yes” to peace with Israel. They said “no.” Having demanded that Israel freeze settlement activity for 10 months as a condition for agreeing to negotiate with Israel, they obtained the freeze — and then refused to negotiate. Every time the Israelis have offered to negotiate with them since 2009 they have repeated the word that has come to be associated with them: “No.”
In Boston last week with a group of her fellow members of the Israel Defense Forces, a young officer named Dana (full names are not used for security reasons), talked about what it feels like to have to defend her country against those who are trying to make it disappear.
“I never tell my mother what I’m doing,” Dana confesses. “I don’t want her not to sleep at night. We try to do our best with the fear.”
In Paris this week, the charade proceeds as before. The Palestinian rejection of the very two-state solution they profess to seek will continue. Their rejectionism will be excused, the rejectionists coddled. Israel will be lambasted, as always. The end of conflict that ought to be attainable if it were actually desired will remain unattained. And Dana and the other young Israelis who do their best to defend their country and who are obliged to cope with their fear will go on knowing that, like it or not, they have precious little choice but to keep on doing what they are doing.
Jeff Robbins, a former United States delegate to the UN Human Rights Council, is an attorney in Boston. This article was published earlier in The Boston Herald.