Paved with Good Intentions? France's Middle East Peace Conference

(Council on Foreign Relations) Robert M. Danin - The 2017 Paris peace conference underlined outdated thinking that, left uncorrected, will harm future international diplomatic efforts to deliver peace to the Holy Land. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, writing in Ha'aretz, argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, left unattended, will "continue to fuel frustration and will ultimately only worsen the vicious cycle of radicalization and violence. It will continue to give budding terrorists excuses for enlisting." The dubious implication is that deadly terrorist attacks unleashed in Cairo, Baghdad, and Istanbul - not to mention Damascus, Aleppo, and Raqaa - were the product of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a display of sheer arrogance, the Paris conference final communique explicitly called upon the democratically elected Israeli government to disavow their own officials whose policy preferences are deemed disagreeable to the Paris conferees. This type of call to intervene in the domestic politics of a democratically elected government is what led British Prime Minister Theresa May to chastise Secretary of State Kerry's speech several weeks ago. Yet saving Israelis from their leaders is clearly what France had in mind for their conference. Why Ayrault believes Israelis would want to listen to the French government, rather than their own leaders, is unclear. If nothing else, the efforts of outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry have provided a real-world experiment that tested the hypothesis that international goodwill and hard work can prevail upon the Israelis and Palestinians to make concessions that they are not prepared to make. This reality makes Paris' call for a return to negotiations right now not only pointless, but misguided. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at CFR.

2017-01-17 00:00:00

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