International pressure on Israel to initiate and carry out a resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians is mounting. But the latest peace proposal from France, including a statement by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, is a perfect example of diplomatic bias against Israel. It delays rather than advances prospects for serious negotiations. That’s because in calling for an international conference, Fabius asserted that if the conference fails, France will recognize a Palestinian state.
Such logic begs the question of why the Palestinians should engage in any kind of compromise with Israel since it would be to Ramallah’s advantage to see the negotiations collapse.
The very premise of such diplomacy speaks to the unfairness — and blind spot — of France and much of Europe in assessing the Mideast impasse. Their assumption is that Israel, the more powerful party and the occupier of the West Bank, must be pressured to make compromises, if not vital concessions. No such obligation is placed on the Palestinians, however, whose leaders have never been known to either initiate peace proposals in the past or make the kind of “painful sacrifices for peace” that past Israeli governments have been prepared to put in place. The pattern has been in place for decades: Israel proposes, the Palestinian Authority rejects.
At the conclusion of the failed Camp David peace talks in 2000, during which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was prepared to cede more than 90 percent of the West Bank, a frustrated President Clinton put the blame squarely on Yasir Arafat. Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, turned down an even more generous proposal by Ehud Olmert eight years later. Even though Israelis saw that unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 brought terror attacks rather than gratitude, Jerusalem is still committed to serious talks leading to peace.
It’s long past time for the international community, including the U.S., to recognize that no progress will be made without putting pressure on the Palestinians to make sacrifices of their own. Most notably, that would mean giving up on the Law of Return, the notion that a large segment of the Palestinian population would settle in Israel. Isn’t the point of the Palestinian cause to have a state of its own? Many Israelis fear that the true motive of the Palestinian leadership is to destroy Jerusalem or defeat it demographically, to replace — not live in peace with — a Jewish state. Only a willingness on the Palestinians’ part to make serious compromises will convince them otherwise. It’s time to reset the Israel-Palestinian peace talk button to Reality.