On January 15, 2017 the French government convened a conference hosted by Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, “to signal… the international community’s remobilization in support of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” according to the French Foreign Ministry.
The Ministry noted that more than 70 governments and international organizations including the Quartet (US, European Union, Russia, UN), the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Arab and European partners, G20 countries and “other actors committed to peace” were scheduled to attend.
The French contend the continuing growth of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and the ongoing crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen “have in no way reduced the significance or the symbolic importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Under these circumstances, “we cannot remain as onlookers of a deadlocked situation that creates despair and insecurity,” they declared.
One aim of the conference is “to create political momentum conducive to new negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves,” not to impose their own solutions. A French official quoted in The Wall Street Journal said another objective is to “show to Mr. Trump that there is consensus in the international community for the two-state solution.”
Although Israel feared the conference could be used to rationalize a UN resolution recognizing a Palestinian Arab State, The Guardian suggested the EU might use the opportunity to justify increasing the boycott of goods produced by Israelis in Judea and Samaria. More broadly, the conference may well be a portent of the EU’s intention of pursuing a foreign policy less dependent on Washington.
Haaretz reported that Secretary of State John Kerry assured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the peace conference would not precipitate any additional actions at the UN or in any other international forums.
British Response: A Key Response
In a move designed to establish good relations with the Trump administration and to ensure the ongoing “special relationship” with the US, The Guardian reported the British refused to send either a Foreign Office minister or the UK ambassador to France to the conference. Instead, they sent a diplomat who heads the Middle East desk at the Foreign Office, and two advisers to the UK ambassador to France. The US/British relationship is important to the British, especially if the country leaves the EU within two years as expected.
At the end of the conference, the British Foreign Office expressed the government’s reservations about the outcome of the meeting and why Britain declined to sign the conference’s final declaration:
“We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them—indeed which is taking place against the wishes of the Israelis—and which is taking place just days before the transition to a new American President when the U.S. will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement. There are risks therefore that this conference hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace.
“That’s why we have attended in an observer status and have not signed up to the communique.”
The French had been told by members of Trump’s transition team of the president-elect’s strenuous disapproval of the conference, knowing that Israel would be subjected to unwarranted pressure, while the Arabs would receive an inexcusable reward. France’s extremely partisan position demonstrates an astonishing degree of hypocrisy and moral inconsistency —even for the French.
On January 10, 2017, NGO Monitor, which documents questionable funding and actions of many Israeli NGOs, released a study revealing that the “French government funds numerous French, Israeli and Palestinian organizations that support and promote BDS campaigns against Israel despite the fact that such boycotts are illegal under French law… One of the Platform’s government-funded projects is explicitly geared towards influencing elected officials, media and public opinion regarding the conflict—an obvious abuse of taxpayer money.”
Whether directly or indirectly, the French even “fund several other NGOs with alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.” Not surprisingly, the French Embassy in Israel refused to respond to the charges.
According to The New York Times, a soon-to-be-released study in the journal Psychological Science explains our aversion to hypocrites, which is why so many hold France’s behavior toward Israel in such contempt. The “reason people dislike hypocrites,” the study found, “is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue…the principal offense of a hypocrite is not that he violates his own principles, but rather that his use of moral proclamations falsely implies that he himself behaves morally.”
The West Being Played for Fools—Once Again
Though the conference’s final report did not produce anything constructive, and Secretary Kerry promised no further anti-Israel activity will be permitted, the West is still being “played” by the Palestinian Arabs, writes Bassam Tawil, a scholar on the Middle East and a Senior Scholar at the Gatestone Institute. “What members of the international community do not seem to understand,” he said, is that “[t]he terrorist who rammed his truck into a German Christmas market did not carry out his attack in outrage at a German settlement or a checkpoint. The terrorist who mowed down French people celebrating Bastille Day was not protesting French ‘occupation.’ Abbas and his cohorts, like the terrorists in Europe, are part of just one big global jihad against all ‘infidels’ – including them.”
By Alex Grobman, PhD
Alex Grobman, a Hebrew University-trained historian, is a consultant to the America-Israel Friendship League, a member of the Council of Scholars for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a member of the Advisory Board of The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).