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February 8, 2016 1

The French Initiative

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Times of Israel blog

Here they go again. The French For­eign Min­is­ter, Lau­rent Fabius, has announced a new ini­tia­tive toward con­ven­ing an inter­na­tional con­fer­ence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The his­tory of such inter­na­tional gath­er­ings, with the unique excep­tion of the Madrid Peace Con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the first Gulf War, has not been a good one. Most often, they become forums for bash­ing Israel rather than mak­ing real progress to break through on the tough­est final sta­tus issues that still divide Israelis and Palestinians.

This bad his­tory is com­pounded, how­ever, in this instance, by the accom­pa­ny­ing state­ment by Mr. Fabius that if such a con­fer­ence fails to lead to progress toward peace, France will rec­og­nize a Pales­tin­ian State. What incen­tive remains for the Pales­tini­ans to be forthcoming?

This alone would guar­an­tee the fail­ure of a con­fer­ence. It is always a chal­lenge to get the Pales­tini­ans to be forth­com­ing toward Israel. If they know for cer­tain that they will be rewarded for inac­tion, the like­li­hood of progress is even more remote.

The French posi­tion reflects the fun­da­men­tal fal­lacy of much of the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity in address­ing the con­flict. Because they see Israel as the occu­pier and stronger party, they see pres­sure on Israel as the way to move the process. In this view, there is noth­ing expected of the Palestinians.

Make no mis­take: Any hope for peace requires actions and com­pro­mises by both sides. Israel has to be forth­com­ing, as well as the Palestinians.

The record, how­ever, shows repeat­edly that Israel can nego­ti­ate in good faith and offer solu­tions that give some­thing to each side.

This was true at Camp David in 2000, when Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Barak offered the Pales­tini­ans a state on more than 90 per­cent of the ter­ri­tory; this was true when his suc­ces­sor Ariel Sharon pulled Israel out of Gaza in 2005; this was true in 2008, when Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert offered the Pales­tini­ans even more than Ehud Barak did for build­ing a state. This was true ulti­mately in the recent effort of U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry to bro­ker a compromise.

While the Netanyahu gov­ern­ment has been less will­ing to pro­pose an ini­tia­tive on peace, there is every rea­son to believe, based on Israel’s his­tory of both the left and the right, that Israel will be there if Pales­tini­ans demon­strate they are pre­pared to truly engage in direct nego­ti­a­tions and will­ing to make impor­tant com­pro­mises for peace.

The so-called friends of the Pales­tini­ans, who blame Israel for every aspect of the con­flict, do the Pales­tini­ans no favor by expect­ing noth­ing of their friends in return.

A far more pro­duc­tive exer­cise for the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, as coun­ter­in­tu­itive as it may seem, is to direct its atten­tion toward Pales­tin­ian behav­ior. The focus should be on what changes are nec­es­sary from the Pales­tin­ian side in order to bring an inde­pen­dent state closer to real­ity. This does not mean Israel is exempt from expec­ta­tions that it make seri­ous and sus­tained efforts to achieve peace. How­ever, the world should expect the Pales­tini­ans to com­pro­mise as well.

Such com­pro­mises that should be demanded of the Pales­tini­ans include accept­ing the legit­i­macy of Israel as a Jew­ish State; the recog­ni­tion that Pales­tin­ian refugees will be reset­tled in a Pales­tin­ian State, just as Jew­ish refugees were reset­tled in the Jew­ish State; the acknowl­edge­ment that a peace agree­ment between the sides will mean the end of the con­flict and future demands; and the ces­sa­tion of incite­ment cam­paigns against Israel and Jews and an end to cel­e­brat­ing to those who com­mit ter­ror­ist attacks.

That’s a lot to ask of the Pales­tini­ans, you say, par­tic­u­larly because they are the occu­pied party.

Maybe so, but it has never been tried. And the Pales­tini­ans remain in their dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. Mean­while, Israeli ini­tia­tives have not only gone nowhere, they have often been fol­lowed by Pales­tin­ian violence.

It is, how­ever, not merely that this approach has not been tried. It is more that it speaks to the root of the prob­lem and to under­stand­able Israeli skep­ti­cism that the Pales­tin­ian goal has not changed at all from 1947 when it was clear that Israel’s destruc­tion was its pri­mary aim.

How­ever much one seeks to blame Israel for the Pales­tin­ian con­di­tion, it is Pales­tini­ans them­selves, with a changed approach, who can bring about a fun­da­men­tal change in the sta­tus quo. Israel’s reac­tion to a new Pales­tin­ian approach will undoubt­edly be cau­tious but will be a response that could move things for­ward toward a two-state solution.

Hav­ing said all this, Israel needs to think about tak­ing its own ini­tia­tive, not because any such move will ensure that there is peace — that can only hap­pen when the Pales­tini­ans engage in the rethink­ing described above — but in order to cred­i­bly demon­strate to the world its com­mit­ment to peace.

Inter­nally, inac­tion has cre­ated a vac­uum that is being filled by peo­ple who are against a two-state solu­tion and who would like to erode Israel’s demo­c­ra­tic values.

Exter­nally, boy­cotts and dele­git­imiza­tion cam­paigns con­tinue to mount against Israel and one-state ideas gain momentum.

An Israeli ini­tia­tive — whether on halt­ing set­tle­ments, bet­ter respect­ing Pales­tini­ans’ rights, or offer­ing a plan — will not bring an end to anti-Israel activ­ity. It will, how­ever, weaken it sig­nif­i­cantly. It could draw away from it many well-meaning peo­ple who are frus­trated with the decades-old stale­mate and sta­tus quo.

Respon­si­bil­ity for peace and for accept­ing at least parts of the oth­ers’ nar­ra­tive lie on both parties.

It is the Pales­tin­ian rethink, how­ever, that could make all the difference.

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October 14, 2015 6

As Israelis Are Stabbed, Obsession With “Even-Handedness” Morally Reprehensible

The inter­na­tional community’s obses­sion with “even-handedness” in com­ments on Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism is morally rep­re­hen­si­ble.  The recent spate of Pales­tini­ans stab­bings Israelis has gen­er­ated too many calls for restraint by both sides and too few con­dem­na­tions of those wield­ing the knives (and of those urg­ing the attacks.)

Spain is the cur­rent Pres­i­dent of the UN Secu­rity Coun­cil.  Yes­ter­day its gov­ern­ment expressed “great con­cern over the extreme grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion in Israel and in Pales­tine, and its seri­ous regret at the suc­ces­sive vio­lent attacks and con­fronta­tions that have lead [sic] to the deaths of at least 6 Israelis and 29 Pales­tini­ans.”  Spain then called for “restraint from all par­ties and for them to deci­sively tackle this swath of vio­lence,” fur­ther describ­ing the sit­u­a­tion as a “dan­ger­ous spi­ral towards violence.”

Who held the knife and who had it plunged into their chest?  Who was shot after mur­der­ing inno­cent bystanders?  Impos­si­ble to know, based on Spain’s statement.

Anti-Israel Incitement from Twitter

Anti-Israel Incite­ment from Twitter

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, sim­i­larly – and unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cally for him – con­flated ter­ror­ists and civil­ian vic­tims.  His Octo­ber 6 state­ment, the only one he has issued since the stab­bings began, reads, “The Secretary-General is pro­foundly alarmed by the grow­ing num­ber of deadly inci­dents in the West Bank, includ­ing East Jerusalem.  The last few days of clashes, which resulted in the death of four Pales­tini­ans, includ­ing a 13-year-old boy, and hun­dreds injured, are yet another wor­ri­some sign of vio­lence poten­tially spi­ralling out of con­trol.  The Secretary-General con­demns the killings and looks to the Gov­ern­ment of Israel to con­duct a prompt and trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion into the inci­dents, includ­ing whether the use of force was proportional.”

Of the four dead Pales­tini­ans ref­er­enced in Ban’s state­ments, it appears that at least two were killed while com­mit­ting ter­ror­ist attacks in Jerusalem. One, Muhan­nad Hal­abi, was shot by police after he bru­tally stabbed to death Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Banita in the Old City on Octo­ber 3. The sec­ond, Fadi Alon, was shot after he stabbed a 15 year-old Jew­ish boy out­side the Old City on Octo­ber 4.  The mur­dered Israelis are not men­tioned, inferred only by the ref­er­ence to “deadly incidents.”

Moral clar­ity requires dis­tin­guish­ing dead ter­ror­ists from their dead vic­tims.  Those in lead­er­ship posi­tions in the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity who fail to make such dis­tinc­tions should not be sur­prised when their other demands are ignored.

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October 13, 2015 0

Caricatures and Images Incite Violence Against Israelis

As Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism con­tin­ues in Israel, media out­lets from across the Arab and Mus­lim world are pub­lish­ing car­toons which glo­rify the killing of Israelis and Jews. These vio­lent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic car­i­ca­tures are being reposted on social media, and are being used to incite fur­ther ter­ror attacks against Israelis.

A promi­nent theme of these car­toons and social media posts relate to the daily spate of Pales­tin­ian stab­bing attacks of Israelis. Among the car­toons are depic­tions of a Pales­tin­ian with a large knife being used to stab Israeli sol­diers, Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu and other Jews, and some glo­rify spe­cific ter­ror attacks includ­ing the Octo­ber 3rd killing of Nehemia Lavi in Jerusalem’s Old City. Some of these car­toons are cir­cu­lat­ing on social media with mes­sages advo­cat­ing vio­lence against Jews and Israelis. Oth­ers, which do not appear to have orig­i­nated from media sources, are tagged with state­ments like “Happy Inter­na­tional Stab a Jew Day” and “stab a Jew today.”  Also cir­cu­lat­ing widely are pho­tos and videos of Gaza Imam Sheikh Muham­mad Sal­lah who, in his ser­mon this past Fri­day, held a knife in a stab­bing motion, and expressed sup­port for stab­bing Israelis.

Another ongo­ing theme is the con­spir­acy the­ory that Israel and Jews are seek­ing to take over the Tem­ple Mount/Noble Sanc­tu­ary and “Judaize” Jerusalem by remov­ing the Mus­lim con­nec­tion to the city. A num­ber of Pales­tin­ian lead­ers have in recent weeks fueled this con­spir­acy with false and out­landish state­ments, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas who last month accused Jews of “des­e­crat­ing” the Tem­ple Mount/Noble Sanc­tu­ary area “with their filthy feet.” This theme, which has been preva­lent for years across the region, is often rep­re­sented by an Israeli or Jew­ish car­i­ca­ture — often in the form of an ani­mal or insect — steal­ing, uproot­ing or destroy­ing the Dome of the Rock mosque.

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