Despite its good intentions, this conference cannot produce any results that will bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
It is easy for the world to blame Israel for all its problems. It is easy for many leaders to blame Israel for the failure of the peace process with the Palestinians.
It may be easy, but it’s not correct. In fact, it’s a serious mistake.
It’s also easy to think that the international community, multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, or international conferences can impose a solution on the parties and, voila, conflicts will be resolved. But if the parties aren’t willing, if the conflicts aren’t ripe enough, there’s no possible solution. In fact, lasting peace, true peace, can only be the result of direct negotiations between the parties involved and the agreements they freely reach.
Peace between Israelis and Palestinians does not need more plans or conferences such as the one to be held in Paris on Jan. 15. What it does require are two truly committed parties ready to negotiate.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. For a few years now, those responsible in the Palestinian Authority have chosen not to sit down and negotiate with the Israeli government. Instead, they have launched a unilateral campaign so that it will fall to the international community to impose recognition as a sovereign state without their having to make the typical concessions that negotiations entail.
The planned Paris conference was born out of good will, but it comes at a very bad moment. On the one hand, Resolution 2334, recently adopted by the U.N. Security Council, has endorsed the Palestinian narrative that the core of the problem comes down to a geographical issue: the settlements in the West Bank and the 1967 borders. Yet this interpretation does not hold water. Every time Israel has swapped land for peace, it has only earned more terrorism. The most striking and visible case is the Gaza Strip: Since Israel carried out its unilateral withdrawal in 2005, Hamas has ruled in that territory with total impunity and the attacks on Israel have only continued. Thousands of rockets and missiles have been launched from Gaza against civilian populations in Israel.
It is easy to believe that the conflict can be reduced to an issue of territories. But that’s false. The reality is different.
The real problem is that the Palestinians don’t want to give an inch of what the Israelis want, namely, that they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. It is as basic as that; nothing more, nothing less.
To demand that Israel renounce any claim to the Western Wall and other places at the heart of Judaism is not just historical nonsense, it is the wrong move. The Palestinians demand east Jerusalem today; tomorrow they will want the entire city, and later, the entire country. In fact, that’s what their propaganda teaches. Their school textbooks, all paid for with EU taxpayers’ money, are full of hatred, incitement to violence, and clear denial of Israel and the Jewish people.
Peace cannot come out of incitement to hatred and violence. It would be good if the participants in Paris would demand that Palestinian leaders end their campaigns and indoctrination against Israel and assume once and for all that Israel was created as the homeland of the Jewish people and that it will continue to be so. The sooner they accept that, the better, so they can reach an agreement with Jerusalem on the drawing of borders.
In the same spirit, this international conference would do well to demand that the Palestinian state have transparent institutions, free from corruption, and defend tolerance and peaceful coexistence with neighboring Israel. No liberal democracy should be satisfied if what it establishes and recognizes is a nest of corruption, nepotism, discrimination, and violence.
This meeting, being hosted by French President Francois Hollande, is poorly timed. A jihadist mortally attacked a group of young soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday, just as others did in Nice and at the Christmas market in Berlin. Israel has been enduring low-intensity terrorist attacks like these for the last two years. This is not the moment to punish or pressure Israel. There are two reasons: first, because the more Palestinians believe that Israel is isolated, the more tempted they are to escalate violence against Israel. This happened with Yasser Arafat in 2000 and will happen again if we continue to blame and delegitimize Jerusalem. Second, to isolate Israel means losing perhaps the best ally the West has to deal with the jihadist threat. Israelis have been enduring the threat firsthand for decades and have developed a system to deal with it. Other countries can learn a lot from that system, as the study “Fighting Terror Effectively,” penned last year by the High Level Home Front Group, made clear.
Despite its good intentions, this conference cannot produce any results that will bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. On the contrary, it can fuel more violence and mutual rejection — just the opposite of what it seeks. That is why we humbly ask that Hollande call this conference off until the circumstances are more auspicious. It is not enough to want the welfare of others; one must know how to attain it.
Rafael L. Bardaji is the executive director of the Friends of Israel Initiative and the former national security adviser to the Spanish government. Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp is a board member of the Friends of Israel Initiative and the forCallmer commander of British forces in Afghanistan.