Ne­tanyahu, Lieber­man deal meant to de­rail French plan

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - [Daoud Kut­tab, an award win­ning Pales­tinian jour­nal­ist who re­sides in Jerusalem and Am­man. Mr. Kut­tab is the di­rec­tor gen­eral of Com­mu­nity Me­dia Net­work a me­dia NGO that runs a ra­dio sta­tion in Am­man (al balad ra­dio 92.4fm) a newsweb site am­man­net.net and

DAOUD KUT­TAB F the French diplo­matic ma­chine had a hard time sched ul­ing a con­fer­ence with US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, it will soon find out that its ef­fort to ar­range an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict will be that much harder. In a three-day spat, a be­hind-the-scenes ef­fort by Kerry and for­mer Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair to move the Is­raeli govern­ment to­ward peace back­fired.

The plan in­cluded Zion­ist Union leader Isaac Her­zog join­ing the govern­ment of Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to give it more mus­cle against right-wing set­tler ide­o­logues. To make it more ac­cept­able, Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fatah al-Sisi, one of the more pop­u­lar Arab fig­ures in Is­rael to­day, gave a pro-peace speech and said he was will­ing to help. Ne­tanyahu and Her­zog were sup­posed to head to Cairo to meet with Sisi.

How­ever, in­stead of adding 25 mem­bers to his one­seat par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity, the prime min­is­ter of­fered the De­fense Min­istry to set­tler Avig­dor Lieber­man, whose right-wing Jewish Home party only won six seats in last year’s elec­tions.

This turn of events pro­duced many re­ac­tions in Is­rael, in­clud­ing in the army, but the big­gest po­ten­tial loser in this cabi­net reshuf­fle will be the French plan

Ito hold an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence. Is­rael is skep­ti­cal about the mul­ti­lat­eral event, pre­fer­ring to keep con­trol of peace talks bi­lat­er­ally. Pales­tini­ans, who have tired of 20 years of di­rect talks that pro­duce noth­ing but photo op­por­tu­ni­ties, have for some time vowed to shun a process that gives Is­rael a PR badge with­out pro­duc­ing any re­sults.

The sud­den Is­raeli cabi­net shift fur­ther to the right has not less­ened French en­thu­si­asm. A re­visit to Kerry’s sched­ule pro­duced a win­dow on June 3, and the prepara­tory meet­ing is back on, ir­re­spec­tive of the changes in Is­rael’s govern­ment. Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans are not in­vited to the meet­ing, which aims to con­sol­i­date the will of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Po­lit­i­cal will The prob­lem is that while there is gen­eral agree­ment on what needs to hap­pen and the frame­work of a so­lu­tion to the con­flict, there is an ab­sence of po­lit­i­cal will and mus­cle needed to force Is­rael to take the peace process se­ri­ously.

What made the Iran nu­clear deal pos­si­ble was tough sanc­tions by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Noth­ing of the sort is on the ta­ble re­gard­ing Is­rael. In fact, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity - in­clud­ing France - is fight­ing tooth and nail against at­tempts by their own cit­i­zens to di­vest from com­pa­nies that deal with Is­rael and help per­pet­u­ate its oc­cu­pa­tion and set­tle­ments regime.

If the French are se­ri­ous about their peace ef­fort, they must not al­low yet an­other con­fer­ence with­out teeth

Boy­cotts, di­vest­ments and sanc­tions (BDS) are what caused South Africa to end its apartheid sys­tem, but the United States, Canada, Aus­tralia and Eu­rope are vi­o­lat­ing free­dom of ex­pres­sion by try­ing to crim­i­nal­ize BDS ef­forts against Is­rael.

The ab­sur­dity of this po­si­tion was best ex­posed in a Twit­ter ex­change be­tween Pales­tinian-Amer­i­can Ali Abu Nimeh and an EU of­fi­cial op­posed to BDS. The ex­change ended with a log­i­cal ques­tion to the of­fi­cial: What form of re­sis­tance to the oc­cu­pa­tion will be ac­cepted by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity?

If the French are se­ri­ous about their peace ef­fort, they must not al­low yet an­other con­fer­ence with­out teeth. For­mer French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabi­ous had said if Is­rael balked at peace, France would rec­og­nize Pales­tine. How­ever, that state­ment was re­tracted by his suc­ces­sor Jean-Marc Ayrault.

It will take much more than a shy, hes­i­tant threat of rec­og­niz­ing Pales­tine to make the forth­com­ing peace con­fer­ence work. Paris needs to un­der­stand that if oc­cu­pa­tion and set­tle­ments are il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law, their per­pet­u­a­tion must have con­se­quences. Un­til and un­less Is­rael has to pay a price for its ac­tions, there is no chance for any process to bring about true peace in the Mid­dle East. —Cour­tesy: AA.

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