Late last month, news reports mounted about France’s efforts to introduce a resolution to the UN Security Council setting an 18-month deadline on Israel-Palestinian talks aimed at creating a Palestinian state.
Under U.S. urging, France is reportedly prepared to wait until the P5+1 Iranian nuclear talks, scheduled to conclude by June 30, play themselves out. France has warned that the nuclear talks may exceed that deadline; but the speculation is that the French, along with New Zealand, will move ahead with their draft resolution this summer.
According to details of the draft, which was leaked to the French newspaper Le Figaro and reported by Ha’aretz, Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would be “based on the June 4, 1967 lines, with mutually agreed and equal land swaps;” Israel’s security requirements would, among other things, require a “demilitarized” Palestinian state; Jerusalem would be the capital of both states; concerning the Palestinian refugees “a just solution, that is balanced and realistic” would emphasize compensation; and, concerning Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, the draft refers only to “the principle of two states for two nations” instead of “two states for two peoples.”
If, as it appears, the French proposal does not refer explicitly to UN Security Council Resolution 242, which, since 1967, has been the bedrock of all Arab-Israeli peacemaking, this will be a major step back from providing Israel with the security and recognition it needs. The “land for peace” formula of 242 means that, if the Arabs (including the Palestinians since the Oslo process beginning in 1993) acknowledge Israel’s “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force” and accept the “[t]ermination of all claims or states of belligerency,” only then is Israel required to withdraw from territory. The “termination of all claims” is otherwise referred to as the “end of conflict” – in short, not “peace” as a temporary measure but as a complete and final agreement.
Unfortunately, during his March 2014 meeting at the White House, PA President Mahmoud Abbas told President Obama that he refused to commit to this key element of the peace process – the “end of conflict.” His refusal remains tied to his insistence that millions of Palestinian refugees have an inherent “right of return” to present-day Israel; and this, in turn, is tied to his refusal to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Abbas’ three “nos” did not just arise last year when he also rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework for continued peace talks with Israel. They’re the reason he rejected then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of Palestinian statehood during the 2008 Annapolis talks (and they explain Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the “Clinton-Barak” proposal for Palestinian statehood at Camp David in 2000).
Today, however, in the West, it is routinely taken as fact that, if only Israel would “make peace” with the Palestinians, a genuine two-state agreement would result.
The current configuration in the Israeli government, with prominent cabinet and deputy cabinet ministers opposed to a Palestinian state, plays into the perception that Israel is the impediment to the two-state agreement Palestinians claim they want – a claim made only in English to Western audiences who nevertheless accept it face value. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim, reiterated recently to EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, that he supports a two-state arrangement, is greeted with skepticism based on his controversial statement on the cusp of the Israeli elections that creating a Palestinian state is not possible “given the current circumstances.”
But this criticism of the Israel government should not be allowed, upon examination, to obscure a deeper truth: most Israelis have consistently supported the two-state solution but have been let down repeatedly, often violently, by Palestinian rejectionism. The pending French plan does not address this rejectionism but, instead, places even greater onus on Israel than past proposals. That in itself is a prescription for yet another failure in the “peace process.”