March 12, 2017

A Beggar and a Chooser


Nina Robins ‘19


The monumental Paris Mideast Peace Conference, discussing the parameters of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, concluded on Sunday, January 15. This conference marked a diplomatic milestone – for the first time in recorded history, the Palestinian Authority, represented by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was a willing partner for peace.
And the Israeli government was not.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the conference outright, claiming that “it was coordinated between the French and the Palestinians with the aim of imposing upon Israel conditions that are incompatible with our national needs.”
Netanyahu and his government were indubitably aggravated by the swamp of past United Nations resolutions condemning Israel disproportionately to frequent violators of human rights and international law. In addition, after failed mediated peace talks in April 2014, Israel’s administration voiced their disapproval in partaking in any negotiations that were not bilateral.
This is a severe miscalculation on Netanyahu’s part. In whose mind are strictly bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians currently feasible?
Conversely, mediated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have experienced far greater success. The most prominent example is the 1993 Oslo Accords, officiated by former United States President Bill Clinton, between then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. The agreement outlined a gradual Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank, which has since been partially realized.
The Accords were incredibly flawed, as evidenced by their failure to end Israeli military presence and ensure lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, they and negotiations like them have developed a lasting framework for peace far beyond the parameters of solely bilateral negotiations.
Likewise, the Paris peace talks and multi-party conferences similar to them, are imperative in ensuring permanent cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obviously, strictly bilateral discussions are the ideal solution, but given the past and current tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, such meetings are unrealistic. The conference in Paris was a fantastic step in the right direction toward peace and the Netanyahu administration erred when denying it.
At the Paris conference, 70 countries convened to discuss prospects for peace with full support of the Palestinian Authority.
“We praise the role of President (Francois) Hollande and the French government in organizing this international conference, and we call upon the participants to take concrete measures in order to implement international law and UN resolutions,” Abbas said.
He and other world leaders reached out their hands in an unprecedented gesture of cooperation and Netanyahu refused the embrace because the offer did not meet his high standards. This rejection makes Netanyahu no better than past Palestinian governments that have rejected Israeli peace offers and instead demanded unfeasible land swaps and terrorist exchanges.
Netanyahu’s hypocrisy only serves to injure Israel’s public relations and give the world yet another justification to baselessly discriminate against it. Surrounded by enemies on its borders and on the international sphere, Israel is not in a secure position of expression where it can choose whether or not to support certain diplomatic procedures. Condemnation of negotiations of any kind will only fuel more anti-Israel sentiments from its opponents.
Although unfair, Israel is villainized more than any other country and is therefore held to a high standard when compromising with any party, especially the Palestinians. Israel usually meets and exceeds these expectations, as the failure to do so would only exacerbate its already weak global appeal.
Such is the case with Netanyahu’s failure to seize the opportunity for negotiation and reaffirm Israel’s position as a viable partner for peace. In order to ensure any semblance of international support of Israel in the future, Netanyahu must engage in productive discussion whenever it presents itself, however unwillingly and however bleak and flawed these prospects may be.
If not, the world can expect this dramatic role reversal between Israeli and Palestinian peace initiatives to become the norm.
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