Hollande Is Dancing Badly in the Footsteps of His Countryman Picot

It’s clear that no Palestinian has stepped forward in recent years who can make and implement agreements. Still, we get the French president’s theatrics.

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French President Francois Hollande waits for a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris,  June 3, 2016.
French President Francois Hollande waits for a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 3, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

One hundred years after Francois Georges-Picot and Mark Sykes decided how the two imperial powers would divide the Middle East after World War I, Francois Hollande assembled two dozen foreign ministers in an attempt to dictate to Israel the steps it should take so that a Palestinian state could be imposed on the region.

Whereas Sykes and Georges-Picot could rely on the military might of British and French armies to impose the lines they had drawn on the map, Hollande has no such power at his disposal. He’s counting on diplomatic and possibly economic pressure on Israel, to be applied by the international community he assembled in Paris.

He would impose on Israel the conditions he considers necessary for the two-state solution he envisages to take shape. This is being done under the guise of encouraging and facilitating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which are to be held under an international umbrella.

For close to 2,000 years the Jewish people had little choice but to follow the orders given by others, but since the establishment of the State of Israel, those days are gone. Israel will do whatever its democratically elected government considers to be in the best interests of Israel. Even Hollande and the many foreign ministers will not get it to do otherwise.

The Palestinian problem was created by the attack on Israel by the regular armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq in May 1948, and has persisted for 68 years mainly due to the demand for the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees. They would return to their original homes in Israel, a demand made by all branches of the dysfunctional Palestinian political entity and supported by the Arab and Muslim world.

The Palestinian refugees, as defined by this demand, include all the progeny of the 650,000 Palestinians who were displaced by the war, now presumably numbering 5 or 6 million, dispersed in a Palestinian diaspora. Their “return” to Israel would spell the end of the State of Israel.

Those supporting this demand know this full well. When all is said and done, this is the main stumbling block that prevents meaningful negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian representatives. The most useful step Hollande and the foreign ministers could take would be to call on Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab and Muslim world to drop this demand and thus begin to clear the way for useful negotiations with Israel.

Yasser Arafat, Oct. 2, 2004.Credit: AP

Negotiations between Palestinians and Israel require Palestinian representatives who can speak with authority and who are capable of making commitments and implementing them once an agreement is reached. It should be clear to all that no such Palestinian representative has stepped forward in recent years.

There was one Palestinian who had that authority and was able to impose it on all dissenters, and that was Yasser Arafat. He was a terrorist leader responsible for a series of atrocities, and as became clear in due time, he was not interested in reaching a peace agreement with Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas, who now heads the Palestinian Authority, does not have that authority and does not speak for all Palestinians. His rivals, Hamas, who have taken control of Gaza, insist that Israel must be destroyed and will not subscribe to any agreement that Abbas might reach in negotiations with Israel. Abbas is fully aware of this and therefore prefers theatrics at the United Nations to negotiating with Israel’s prime minister.

Now Hollande is busy creating theatrics at Paris. They cannot lead anywhere. They will not advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, and if the assembled foreign ministers in Paris believe that the wave of terror that has hit Europe is related to the Palestinian problem, they don’t understand the causes of the violence that has gripped the Middle East these past few years.