The road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians will pass through two cities: Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Israelis and Palestinians don’t need grand conferences with dozens of participants, replete with muted declarations and fancy photo-ops.
Peace is forged through bilateral negotiations, with leaders meeting face-to-face — leaders who are willing to recognize one another, willing to make tough sacrifices, and who are determined to build a better future for their people.
That was the case with the Israel-Egypt peace treaty signed in 1979 and that was the lesson from the Israel-Jordan peace pact of 1994. From Northern Ireland to South Sudan, in region after region, direct peace talks alone have brought real solutions.
The recent Middle East peace conference in Paris — a conference that took place without the Israelis or Palestinians — was yet another unhappy attempt to impose solutions from the outside. The conference went precisely nowhere, with some countries — including the United Kingdom — refusing to back the final resolution, warning that it would only harden the Palestinians’ position.
How do you encourage people to make peace? You help them sit and talk, so they can reconcile and resolve their differences. You prepare them for the need to make painful sacrifices. The Paris conference did neither.
The Paris confab also came hard on the heels of the one-sided United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which claimed that Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem are “occupied Palestinian territory.”
That resolution failed to lay any responsibility for the lack of peace on Palestinian terrorism and incitement. And it failed to encourage Palestinian leaders to step up and meet their obligations.
The Palestinians have walked away from negotiations time and time again, from Camp David in 2000 to Ehud Olmert’s peace offer in 2008 to the last round of direct peace talks in 2014. They refused to negotiate during Israel’s 2009-10 settlement freeze. They rejected the John Kerry framework agreement. And they are still inciting their people to terrorism from the highest levels.
Yet Resolution 2334 spared them any blame. Instead it accused Israel alone of creating, because of its settlements, “a major obstacle” to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
Many see the U.N. and Paris outcomes as reinforcing the Palestinians’ serial determination to avoid negotiating at any cost. Indeed, why should Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he has the international community firmly in his corner?
Israel remains committed to the solution of two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace with safe and secure borders.
For Palestinian leadership, the main sticking point is Israel’s right to exist, within any borders. Their refusal to accept Israel far predates the first settlement, which was built after the Six-Day War in 1967.
If the world’s nations truly seek to advance peace in the region, they must set aside blaming only Israel while turning a blind eye to the culture of Jew-hatred within Palestinian society. There must be an unequivocal message to Mr. Abbas: Stop encouraging violence, condemn terrorism, stop hate speech, stop teaching children to see Israelis as an abomination, recognize Israel as a Jewish state and renew direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions.
It’s time for the Palestinian leadership to help bring peace closer. Their efforts to internationalize the conflict will only ensure that peace prospects will drift into the shifting sands of the Middle East.