Netanyahu, Accept the French Peace Initiative

Netanyahu, Accept the French Peace Initiative

Haaretz Editorial

 
1.5.2016
 
As expected, the French initiative to convene an international conference for talks between Israel and the Palestinians was met with total rejection by Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear in his statement that the only way to advance the diplomatic process is direct, bilateral negotiations, without preconditions, with the Palestinian side. Any other gathering or conference, he argued, is liable to push the Palestinians into evading direct negotiations.
 
The initiators of the conference do not accept the prime minister’s position and expect that, if following the first conference – which is expected to take place at the end of the month – an additional international conference is convened, there will be prospects for a breakthrough. In light of the continued and dangerous stalemate in the diplomatic process, there is no reason to reject the French initiative, which, even if it doesn’t resolve the fundamentals of the conflict, will at least put it back on the global agenda. And it may also generate some original ideas and steps toward a solution. Acceptance of the initiative could have also extracted Israel from the regular rejectionist hole in which it has placed itself for years, and encouraged the Palestinians to believe they have a partner on the Israeli side.
 
But as Netanyahu made clear, this initiative is knocking on a solid Israeli door, beyond which are stacked diplomatic emptiness and messianic fervor. As the Netanyahu government sees it, any mention of the term “process” means the obliteration of Greater Israel, an idea that has grown deep roots during Netanyahu’s long term in office. Secure borders, peaceful neighborly relations and resilient international standing are all trivialities in the premier’s eyes.
 
If there is nothing to this argument, it would behoove Netanyahu to openly state if he would be prepared to compromise on territory in exchange for peace. If there is no substance to allegations against him as rejecting any diplomatic solution, he should stop hiding behind the “Without precondition” cover – a phrase that in and of itself is a precondition that up till now has halted continued negotiations. He should simply initiate direct talks with the Palestinians.
 
Netanyahu’s policy further darkens the clouds gathering over the citizens of Israel. It is not only the United States, Britain and France that are running out of patience with the state. Germany, too, with its “historic debt,” has recently been demonstrating its displeasure. The recent statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she understands why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is interested in turning to the UN Security Council is evidence of the growing disconnect between Israel and its friends in the West.
 
Netanyahu needs to accept the French initiative – and not only as a goodwill gesture. He should give it substance that will ensure the security and well-being of Israel’s citizens.