Only several weeks ago, the French and Brits raised their hands in favor of an anti-Israel resolution at the Security Council, and on Sunday they convened the world’s countries in Paris for another march of folly aimed at enforcing the resolution’s content under the misleading title of a conference promoting peace. The Paris conference is conveying the wrong message at the wrong timing and in the wrong place.
The message: The conference won’t change anything on the ground. Just like nothing changed on the ground after the United Nations General Assembly resolution which recognized the Palestinians as a non-member observer state. All it will do is raise the expectations, which will only increase the frustration and violence. Albert Einstein defined “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When will the international community finally realize that granting the Palestinians unilateral achievements, time and again, is simply the wrong way?
Beyond the etiquette, the fireworks and the crispy croissants, this conference lacks any real content. International conferences are intended to serve as an envelope in which the sides work to reach an agreement while they hold direct negotiations. That’s the way it was in Madrid, Oslo and Camp David. The international community’s job is to provide incentives to both sides in order for them to sit down at the negotiating table and make it clear to them that without negotiations they both stand to lose, but it appears to be doing everything apart from that.
The conference is expected to reinforce the Security Council’s outrageous resolution, which encourages a boycott of Israel and determines, among other things, that the Western Wall, the Gilo neighborhood and other places are occupied Palestinian territory. Of course the conference will not deal with the real obstacles to peace, like the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, so its results are like a chronicle foretold. Instead of bringing the sides closer, it is expected to push them away from the negotiating table, deepen the stalemate it is in and encourage violence.
The timing: The Paris conference is taking place at a miserable timing – just days before the new American administration is sworn in and on the background of the upcoming elections in France. A cold and tasteless dessert brought to Israel courtesy of the Obama administration, accompanied by improvised hors d'oeuvres from the French kitchen, served a moment before the chef is replaced. The problem is that the chef prefers to continue to meddle in the affairs of others, completely ignoring the other pots – like the genocide in Syria, the internal European terror and the immigration problems – which are boiling over in light of the intensity of the fire below them.
The place: Yes to a conference in Cairo, no to a conference in Paris. There is no doubt that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has to be restarted, yet not in the form of a pointless international conference but through a regional conference in a “2+6” format – in the presence of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Israel and the Palestinians, brokered by the United States and Russia, given the American transition of power and the new dynamics between the world powers. Such a conference would include regional key players and could create leverages that would allow the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table which they abandoned more than two years ago.
Restarting the peace process requires and understanding and real responsibility. It’s time for the international community to realize that the Palestinian leadership does not need an American-French prom, but someone who will know how to shake it and bring it back to the negotiating table.
Amb. Ron Prosor, Israel’s former permanent representative to the United Nations, is the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC).