Sunday, 25 Feb 2018 - 10 of Adar, 5778

La La land in Paris?

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As some fifty nations prepare to attend the Paris Summit on the Middle East Peace process – in the absence of Israel – one is tempted to use a familiar theatrical metaphor: this does seem as another production of “Hamlet without the prince”. With Israeli decision makers, and a broad spectrum of public opinion, increasingly alienated by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 and its aftermath, the gathering in Paris is unlikely to produce the groundswell of support for renewed peace efforts that the French government apparently seeks. The opposite is more likely. International pressures play directly into the hands of those in the Israeli hard right who see them as proof that there really is no difference between the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and some outpost on a barren hill halfway between Ramallah and Nablus.

True, many in the world – including the Security Council – denounced the recent murderous terror attack in Jerusalem and recognized that in this respect, Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with the civilized world, and with the forces of stability and progress in the Arab world, against the madness that threatens to engulf the region. But those who did so – and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity – nevertheless fail to ask themselves whether support for 2334, or for a coercive spectacle in Paris (which might yet lead to another bid for action at the Security Council) does not actually reduce Israel’s ability, now and in the future, to defend her citizens against such attacks.

Therein lies a dangerous contradiction. In order for Israel to sustain her defensive capacity – not least, through robust security measures that involve a long term military presence in the Jordan valley, a vital interest of Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians alike (and one that no foreign presence can substitute) – there must be a painful compromise reached at the negotiating table. But actions such as 2334 and spectacles like Paris greatly reduce the motivation of Palestinian negotiators to come to such difficult decisions – if they are allowed to entertain the hope that they can gain support for an imposed solution instead.

The same goes for the question of territorial compromise. To assume that the ultimate disposition of the areas gained by Israel in the War of 1967 will involve the maas uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes in their homeland is sheer fantasy: but perhaps inspired by Hollywood’s choices, the gathering in Paris is offering the Palestinian leadership tickets to this La La Land. The real prospects of peace – which will require highly painful concessions from both sides, but cannot conform to the present Palestinian state of mind induced by 2334 – will not be served by anything that even remotely suggests that Israel can be coerced into such massive human dislocation (let alone the carving up of the living city of Jerusalem). The Paris Conference thus seems set to be an exercise in futility – or worse, a self-defeating and counter-productive diplomatic spectacle.

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerma (Ph.D. London School of Economics) Member of Faculty, Shalem Academic Center. Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Former deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. Held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years.

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