The futile talkfest in Paris aimed its message at America, not the Middle East.
January 17, 2017
The Paris meeting felt less like a diplomatic summit than a farewell concert thrown by an aging rock band. . . . Diplomats promised to meet again in Paris later this year. It may be difficult to justify the trip.
It was, even by the dispiriting standards of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, a futile concept: a peace conference without either of the warring parties. On January 15th diplomats from more than 70 countries flew to Paris for a summit against which Israeli officials had inveighing for weeks. Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, called it “rigged” and his defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, compared it to the Dreyfus trial. So the French government, keen to avoid the embarrassment of having Israel refuse to attend, did not invite either side. It was “like a wedding without a bride and groom,” quipped Naftali Bennett, Israel’s right-wing education minister.
After a full day of debate, the diplomats issued a two-page declaration that urged both sides to “commit to the two-state solution . . . [and to] take urgent steps in order to reverse the current negative trends on the ground.” If that sounds familiar, it should. Parts of it were copied verbatim from the closing statement of the previous Paris peace conference, held in June.
Reactions to it were apathetic. Israelis are more preoccupied with a criminal investigation of Mr Netanyahu, who has been questioned several times this month over alleged corruption (which he denies). Talk of an early election is in the air. Among Palestinians, politics is as stagnant as ever: the West Bank and Gaza Strip are run by rival parties, the nationalist Fatah movement and the Islamists of Hamas respectively; the unpopular Mahmoud Abbas is in the 13th year of what is meant to be four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The real target audience of the organizers was in midtown Manhattan, not on the Mediterranean. No one knows exactly how Donald Trump will approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His views on the subject (as well as many others) are unclear and sometimes contradictory. The Israeli right is gleeful, however, about his pledge to move America’s embassy to Jerusalem, and by his choice for ambassador: David Friedman, who has said Israel should annex the West Bank, a move that would preclude the formation of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish one.