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The Paris Peace Conference Déjà Vu (Part 2)

The upcoming Paris Peace Conference bears an eerie resemblance to its 1919 namesake, which sowed the seeds of conflict for the next century. Repeating that failed effort is insanity... unless peace is actually not the goal.

Part 2 of 3: The Mystery. Why the West keeps derailing Israeli-Palestinian peace

Part 1 of this analysis reviewed the two-state solution that almost materialized in 1919, until a Paris Peace Conference and its follow-up at San Remo sabotaged it. The decades of bloody conflict that followed, while not entirely the fault of the West, were definitely aggravated by a continual Western misreading of the region, and repeated mediation which pasted wishful Western thinking over complex Middle Eastern realities.

Eventually Britain and France were joined by others eager to manage Arab-Israeli relations, especially America. After PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat failed to honor his Oslo obligations, they all developed amnesia about its terms… especially America. Gone was Oslo’s reversibility in case of failure, not to mention its broad range of protections” for Israeli settlements. The Western peace obsession fossilized into efforts to force additional Israeli surrenders to “revive” a nonexistent peace process.

If these efforts had been from naiveté, the spectacular failures would have prompted an overhaul long ago. Instead, the 2017 Paris Peace confab will offer the same Palestinian concessions Israel purchased repeatedly over the past 23 years: recognition of the Jewish state, renunciation of violence, education of its population for peace, and removing from its Charter the calls for Israel’s destruction. With Abbas demanding an apology for the Balfour Declaration, no one can imagine that he will recognize the Jewish right of return. We must find another explanation for Western involvement.

One clue is that the double-dealing hypocrisy practiced at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference has returned with its 2017 reincarnation. Controversy raged over secret Sykes-Picot-style meetings between America and the PA, with Britain playing mediator by drafting a condemnation of Israeli settlements acceptable to both sides. When Egypt refused to sponsor UNSC-2334, Britain (oblivious to the irony) pressured their New Zealand settlers to present it.

Also relevant is Western backing of Palestinian demands for Jew-free territory, which was defended with arrogance disguised as benevolence. U.K. Prime Minister Teresa May, amidst high praise for Israel, defined “true friendship” as telling Israelis that they are “wrong” to take the Balfour Declaration seriously by resettling their heartland. In his Dec. 28 speech outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delicately called for “advancing the process of separation now” (known elsewhere as apartheid), to get Palestinians “ready for serious negotiations” over whatever land might still contain Jews. Kerry mentioned the annulled Oslo Accords repeatedly, insisting that foisting them on Israel is likewise a friend’s obligation. After echoing May’s admiration for Israeli democracy, he called the government elected by the Israeli people “the most rightwing in Israeli history” and therefore unacceptable.

Kerry’s incompetence as a peace-broker was clinched by his argument against Israel’s settlement enterprise: “The Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel’s laws. Does anyone really believe the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine?The PA declaration that no Israeli will be allowed to live in Palestine is common knowledge, as are the laws banning even anti-settlement Israelis from visiting Palestinian universities, and Palestinian celebrations of terror attacks on (presumably) undisputed Israeli land. Kerry’s audience was left to decide which was more offensive: his pretended ignorance, or his assumptions about the average Israeli IQ.  

But Kerry, representing a nation that views Israel as its vassal state, neither noticed nor cared. His declaration, “Friends need to tell each other the hard truths,” was a nicety to justify condemnations from Washington to Jerusalem. Netanyahu once took that principle literally and reminded the U.S. of some hard truths, causing President Bill Clinton to privately fume, “Who the f**k does he think he is? Who’s the f**king superpower here?” And although U.S. presidents feel entitled to manipulate Israeli elections (an “extraordinarily controversial” habit traced by researcher David Weinberg back to the 1980s), Netanyahu’s expressed preference in the 2012 American elections earned him a smug warning in Slate that reinforced Clinton’s attitude: “If Obama wins in November, Netanyahu had better hope that the president doesn’t carry a grudge…. This time, he really does need to remember who the superpower is.”

Sure enough, during his second term Obama’s personal animosity toward Netanyahu increased, qualifying as “the most dysfunctional relationship between an American and Israeli leader” on record. Obama’s team stooped to calling Israel’s prime minister “a chicken-s**t [sic]” for authorizing new homes in Jerusalem, while simultaneously calling him a “coward” for refusing to bomb Iran.

In short, America’s appreciation of Israel carries the aristocratic egotism of a by-gone empire, like the Duke of Wellington’s appreciation for his soldiers: “The mere scum of the earth… it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.” Woe to the Israeli leader so ungrateful” and “impudent that he dares to lecture his Western benefactor on Middle East complexities – he is forgetting who made Israel the fine country it is!

Britain is likewise living in the colonial past. The disability was exposed by Theresa May’s rebuke to the U.S. for obsessing over the Israeli settlements as the obstacle to peace, after her government expressed the same opinion and drafted a UN resolution forcing the issue. The Brits’ schizophrenic diplomacy, which offended the Americans and confused everyone else, was an echo from the Mandate era. But there is a method to their madness. After being summoned to Israel’s Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem over UNSC-2334, the U.K. embassy reasserted British control by subtly relocating Israel’s capital: “…we’ll certainly continue to have those conversations in Tel Aviv [sic].”

As for France, contempt for Israel’s prime minister was politely masked until the 2011 faux pas, when President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama discussed their common disdain for Netanyahu, unaware that journalists were listening. Later Sarkozy sent Netanyahu a letter compensating for the insult by reaffirming French “friendship” – a patronizing response accepted as an ‘apology’ by Israel. However, French friendship didn’t protest the banning of Jews from any area coveted by Palestinians; the French envoy hailed UNSC-2334 as “the first time that the Council had clearly stated the obvious“. The 2017 peace conference hosted by President Hollande is reportedlythe product of frustration” in Paris at Netanyahu’s continuing opposition to “the obvious“, and at U.S. failures to unseat him, as France so ably did to Faisal in its 1920 Mandate.

Today colonialist attitudes (other than the Islamic variety) are frowned on. Thus Western powers have resorted to inviting and advising, rather than dictating terms. But the New York Times saw through the veneer, observing that Kerry had “deviated from the traditional U.S. message that foreign powers shouldn’t impose a solution.” (The unspecified target is Israel, since no one ever imposes anything on the PA.) Similarly, a British source told the Jewish Chronicle that London’s heavy-handed UN initiative was “a new strategy towards Israel by Mrs. May, who believes Israel’s friends must make their opposition to settlements clearer if they are to carry any weight with the Palestinians.

It’s not new, it’s Déjà Vu: a repeat of the 1919 divide-and-conquer strategy. Now as then, the driving motive is every colonizer’s nightmare: losing control of a valuable colony.

Israel’s value to the West would require a separate article. For now, a look at the 1916 Sykes-Picot map will suffice. Whereas Iraq, Syria, Transjordan and Arabia were quickly created with ruler-drawn lines, the Jewish homeland of swamp, stones and sand was haggled over inch by inch. A century later, Israel’s astonishing development has exponentially increased the profits for any country that can demand something in return for “friendship”.

But for that to work, the competition (less costly friendships) must be eliminated or compromised. This applies to Israel’s peace partners, who also suffer from Western double-dealing.

Jordan’s 1994 treaty with Israel did not demand Palestinian statehood as a condition. On the contrary, former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger reported that during those negotiations, “top commanders of the Jordanian military urged their Israeli counterparts to stop short of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, ‘lest it destroy the [pro-US] Hashemite regime east of the River.’ …Jordan is considered by the PLO to be Palestinian land.” This is still the position of PA leader Abbas, whose extensive terrorist resume was included in Ettinger’s article. Writing in 2009 about Obama’s Middle East policy, Ettinger then posed a good question: “Why would the US support the Hashemite regime on one hand, but doom it to oblivion by promoting a Palestinian State on the other?”

In 2013 Egyptians saw  Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood’s abuse of power after being elected, and were similarly wondering

…why the U.S. government is supporting an organization that has openly declared jihad against the West, engaged in threats of war with Israel and Ethiopia, demolished dozens of ancient historic churches, set hospitals on fire, and murdered Christians in the streets.

The Muslim Brotherhood has no respect for the rule of law, but the Obama Administration treats the Egyptian military that removed the group from power as a threat to democracy itself.

This peculiar inversion is kept alive by American media. Huffington Post recently called Muslim Brotherhood “a force for democratization and stability in the Middle East,” while US News criticized the decisions of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Bahrain to declare it a terrorist organization, hinting that they misunderstood what MB means by “jihad“.

Added to this is Obama’s aversion to the growing alliance between Israel and Sunni Muslim states, which has American analysts perplexed. All can be explained by the fear that Israel’s isolation in the Middle East is ending, robbing the U.S. of the leverage used repeatedly to keep the Jewish state submissive.

The possibility that President-elect Trump might grant Israel independence has the colonialists worried. The anxiety showed up in the Reuters report on the 2017 Paris Peace Conference, quoting a French diplomat: “The source said that with uncertainty surrounding how the next US administration would handle the issue it was more important than ever to deal with the issue. ‘You can see that it’s even more justified in this context,’ the source said.

As the Yiddish proverb goes, “Der Mensch tracht und Gott lacht.” Man makes his plans… and God laughs. That’s a Biblical observation (Ps. 2:2-4), and we will explore its relevance to the West’s Middle East agenda in Part 3.

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Hannah Weiss
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.

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