After months of diplomatic dormancy, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced over the weekend that France plans to convene an international conference in the next few weeks to jump-start the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He added that if this initiative fails, France will officially recognize a Palestinian state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not deviate from his habit of viewing every diplomatic initiative as a threat to the State of Israel. At the start of yesterday’s cabinet meeting Netanyahu argued, “The essence of negotiations is compromise, and the French initiative essentially gives the Palestinian incentive in advance not to do so.”
International recognition of an independent Palestinian state is the core principle of the two-state solution, to which Netanyahu committed himself in his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. During the failed negotiations held at the initiative of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the prime minister did not propose a shred of compromise that could have led to the end of the occupation and a permanent arrangement. Instead, the government he headed increased the pace of construction in the settlements and undercut the prestige of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas.
To this day, Israel has never responded to the Arab League peace proposals of March 2002. Recently opposition leader Isaac Herzog also abandoned his support for a permanent settlement in favor of some vague plan to separate from the Palestinians.
A senior Israeli official mocked the French proposal, saying, “Israel wonders if France will also propose an international peace conference with the Islamic State, an organization that sows and disseminates terror in France.” Less than a day later, there was another terror attack in the territories that wounded three Israeli soldiers.
It should be noted that this time the gunman came from the Palestinian security forces, echoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s observation regarding the direct link between the Israeli occupation and increasing Palestinian hatred and violence. This is not the first time that Israel’s opposition to an attempt to advance a diplomatic solution has led to frustration, accompanied by violent responses of despair.
Instead of finding ways to scuttle every effort that might lead to a solution, France should be congratulated on its initiative in the hope that other countries, especially the United States, join it. Recognition of a Palestinian state that will live in peace alongside the State of Israel is not a threat to Israel. It is a welcome contribution to its peace, security and morality.
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