Israel-Palestine? Forget Paris. It won't be hard.

Israel-Palestine? Forget Paris. It won't be hard.
Comment: Alone, the conference amounts to little, but in the context of the past year it signals an ongoing, significant move away from the peace process, writes Yousef Munayyer.
5 min read
18 Jan, 2017
The two participants not in attendance? The Israelis and Palestinians [Andalou]

The Paris Peace Conference which took place earlier this week has come to a close and it barely even amounted to a singular blip on the radar.

Some 70 countries participated in what was one of the largest international gatherings focused on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The two participants not in attendance? The Israelis and Palestinians.

The conference was by, for and of the international community and will likely have little impact on the situation on the ground. 

The conference itself had been planned for a long time and is the culmination of a coordinated effort between the United States and France to attempt to make one last push to save the "two-state solution" and advance the cause of peace.

From the outset, though, the Israelis rejected the conference while the Palestinians have cautiously welcomed the French initiative.

Alone, the conference amounts to very little, but in the context of the moment and in particular the past year, it signals the continuation of a very important trend; the move away from the "peace process" as we know it.

Israel has invested heavily in its relationship with the United States and there is no country from which Israel believes it - and its policies - will receive more sympathy. For this reason, the Israelis have long sought to ensure that any negotiations happen under the auspices of the United States, and not under any other internationalised framework.

It amounted to little more than one last opportunity for the leading figures of the two-state peace process to break bread

Think of it as home field advantage where the referee is your relative. Few things symbolise this better than the near reflexive veto cast by the United States in the United Nations Security Council on resolutions critical of Israel.

Over 40 such vetoes have been cast, where the United States was the lone no vote opposing a unified council, over the past four decades.

But recently, something began to change. The incessant settlement expansion on the part of the Israelis, and their electorate's insistence on maintaining a right-wing government that is the self-declared most pro-settlement government in history, made it difficult for even the United States to keep covering for them.

So for the past year, keen observers of this issue have watched as the language and tone of the United States began to change in every statement on the situation on the ground. The frustration with Israel was clear.

  Read More: Symbolic but spineless: UNSC resolution on Palestine-Israel

Then, at the very end of 2016, the United States abstained on a United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. UNSC Resolution 2334 was important not for the language it contained in its text but rather for the symbolism its passage represented.

For years, American officials, all the way up to the President of the United States, had been saying that the "status quo" of perpetual occupation "is unsustainable". What we witnessed over the course of 2016 was that the diplomatic status quo was in fact unsustainable, and changing.

The Paris conference is the culmination of this shift. For this reason, the text of its communique is not really as relevant as the fact that it took place. But even this relevance is lost amid the massive global changes that are afoot, and any diplomatic shift this conference might represent is too little, and too late, to matter.

President-elect Donald J. Trump has signaled a sharp reversal on US policy toward Israel. The world order as we have understood it in the aftermath of the Cold War is changing.

The Paris Conference communique is a blase text filled with all the usual platitudes

The US and Russia appear to be coming closer together, Europe is lurching toward right-wing nationalism, and Israel is effectively saying "what took you guys so long to catch up!?"

This new global configuration will have a significant impact on how the international community relates to issue of Israel-Palestine. Brexited Britain, for example, was the only nation in attendance refusing to sign on to the Paris Conference communique, a blase text filled with the usual platitudes.

Given all of this, this conference amounted to little more than one last opportunity for the leading figures of the two-state peace process to break bread.

As the conference was closing, the French Ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud tweeted "In any conflict, the stronger side wants direct negotiations and the weaker international mediation. Necessary to find a compromise."

Of course the first part of this is undeniably true, but that latter half is more revealing. What is needed from the international community, particularly the so-called "leading nations of the liberal world order," is the enforcement of relevant laws and norms that have underpinned the global order since the Second World War.

Too often, and particularly in the case of Israel-Palestine, leading nations of this order have categorically failed to do so, and often stood in the way of enforcing relevant laws.

This failure is one of many reasons for the impending global crisis we are experiencing today.

Dr. Yousef Munayyer is a Middle East Analyst at Arab Center Washington DC and Executive Director of US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Follow him on Twitter: @YousefMunayyer

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.