Senior officials of some 70 countries and international organizations gathered in Paris on Jan. 15 to try, one more time, to move forward the project to divide the area shared by Israelis and Palestinians into two states, living side by side in peace.
The putative hopelessness of the effort was underlined by the fact that neither the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the Palestinian Authority led by acting President Mahmoud Abbas was represented at the Paris conference. Both are basically useless in a quest for an agreement and peace in that piece of the Middle East. Netanyahu leads an increasingly obdurate right-wing government, dominated by Orthodox Israelis and West Bank settlers or other Israelis who favor expansion of the illegal West Bank settlements. The mandate as PA president of Abbas, now 81, expired in 2009, eight years ago, and his credibility among Palestinians continues to decline.
In spite of Netanyahu’s obstinance and Abbas’s flaccidity as a leader, there remain strong elements in Israel and continued militancy on the Palestinian side, in Gaza, the West Bank and among Palestinians in exile in other countries, to make it clear 69 years after Israel’s declared independence that the Palestinians are not going to go away in their demand for a homeland for the some 12 million of them in the world.
The Paris conference Jan. 15 made it clear that equally alive is a sense on the part of the international community that peace and stability will not come to that part of the Middle East until the Palestinians gain their state in a two-state resolution of the problem. The growing vigor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, founded in 2005, in the world sends the same message. No one is saying that Israelis should not have their state. What the world is saying, most recently in Paris Sunday, is that the Palestinians should also, and that the issue will not be settled and peace assured until that outcome is achieved.
Outgoing Secretary of State John F. Kerry represented the United States at the conference. One question very much up in the air at Paris was what will be the position of the new U.S. administration of President Donald J. Trump on the Israeli-Palestinian question. It is widely expected that Trump will take an unshaded pro-Israeli posture. Americans should hope not: such a position will neither resolve the problem nor make it go away, whatever the political, logical or financial appeal this simple approach might have.
This editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 17.