Paris Conference Drives Away Peace Hopes

Paris Conference Drives Away Peace Hopes

Guest Column by Judith Varnai Shorer

Another spectacle. Another photo op to say “I care” and to feel like “I’m doing something.” But the cause of peace will be set back.

How do you encourage peoples to make peace? You help them sit and talk so they can reconcile and resolve their differences. You prepare them for the need to make painful sacrifices because the prize of peace is worth it.

The Jan. 15 French-Palestinian conference in Paris did just the opposite. Instead of urging the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table with Israel, it will reinforce that leadership’s serial determination to avoid negotiating at any cost.

Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer
Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians does not need bombastic conferences with dozens of participants, complete with empty declarations.

To promote peace, the nations of the world need simply to tell Palestinian leaders the truth: Peace requires reconciliation with Israel, and the only way to achieve it is through direct negotiations. Tell them Israel is a partner for peace and is ready to make painful sacrifices, as indeed it did in the past. Tell the Palestinians they will have to accept difficult compromises on borders, refugees, security and Jerusalem. Tell them that this is the only way to bring hope and a better future to their children and the generations to come.

The road to peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah passes through just those places: Jerusalem and Ramallah. Not New York. Not Paris. Not international forums, resolutions or futile conferences. Peace is paved through bilateral negotiations, with leaders meeting face to face, ready and willing to work with each other.

That was the case with the Israel-Egypt peace in 1979; that was the lesson of the Israel-Jordan peace in 1994. From Northern Ireland to South Sudan, in region after region, direct peace talks alone brought real solutions.

On the heels of the recently adopted, one-sided U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which designates Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory,” the Palestinian-French Paris conference served as yet another platform for deliberately selective censure of Israel and another grandiose forum that failed to place the necessary responsibility in the hands of Palestinian leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly entreated Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet him, yet instead of endorsing those entreaties, the international community prefers to incentivize Abbas’ avoidance of direct contact.

Why should Abbas negotiate with Israel when he so effortlessly can have the international community lay the blame on Israel, even as it turns a blind eye to the culture of hate and violence frothing under his nose in Palestinian society?

Israel has said and continues to say yes to any opportunity, any time, any place, to have direct negotiations with the Palestinian leadership without preconditions. But the Palestinians have run away from negotiations time and again, from Camp David in 2000, Ehud Olmert in 2008, and Paris and Washington in 2014.

By cherry-picking issues to appease the Palestinians, the conference in Paris only entrenched Palestinian intransigence and perpetuated the conflict, thus hurting the Palestinian people rather than helping them.

The Palestinian attempt to internationalize the conflict, enabled by world leaders, allows the Palestinian leadership to avoid a final-status resolution. It also proves that this conflict has never been about a Palestinian state. It is, and has always been, about Israel’s right to exist within any borders.

Cartoon by Yaakov Kirschen, Dry Bones
Cartoon by Yaakov Kirschen, Dry Bones

The solution to the conflict requires the Palestinians to be willing to live alongside Israel rather than seeking to replace it.

Israel remains committed to two states for two peoples living in peace. The conflict can be resolved if the Palestinian leaders wish to end it — by meeting and resolving the issues together.

If the world’s nations truly seek to advance peace, they should send an unequivocal message to Abbas: Stop encouraging violence and terrorism, stop promoting hate speech, and stop educating Palestinian children to kill Israelis. Teach them that Israel is here to stay and that peaceful relations with Israel must be the foundation of a future Palestinian state.

While the bloodbath rages in Syria, world leaders made another show of misguided hubris and demanded nothing from the Palestinians. As such, the Paris conference was a meeting of yesterday. It was anti-Israeli and anti-Palestinian, anti-peace and counterproductive. It was illogical and unjust.

The international community can, and must, do better.

Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer is the consul general of Israel to the Southeast.

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