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International peace conference would endanger Israel

Yitzhak Rabin (center), then the Israeli defense minister, arrives in the United States at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in September 1986. Credit: Sgt. Robert G. Clambus via Wikimedia Commons.
Yitzhak Rabin (center), then the Israeli defense minister, arrives in the United States at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in September 1986. Credit: Sgt. Robert G. Clambus via Wikimedia Commons.

By Stephen M. Flatow/

France’s announcement that it will try to convene an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been strongly criticized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But before anyone concludes that only “right-wingers” oppose such a conference, it’s worth recalling that one of the most outspoken critics of the conference idea was prominent peace process player Yitzhak Rabin.

The year was 1985, and Rabin—later the co-signer of the Oslo Accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat—was Israel’s defense minister. Arab leaders had been pushing for the convening of an international peace conference. Rabin and other Israeli leaders were insisting on direct Arab-Israeli negotiations. In the United States, the Ronald Reagan administration had always supported Israel’s position. But in the spring of 1985, reports being appeared in the press suggesting that Secretary of State George Shultz was starting to warm up to the idea of an international conference. A worried Rabin flew to the U.S. for top-level discussions.

Upon his arrival in the U.S., Rabin “made it clear he was concerned about Washington’s apparent weakening on the question of an international conference on the Middle East,” according to Near East Report, the weekly newsletter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“If they are ready to make peace, let’s negotiate [directly],” Rabin was quoted as saying. “If someone wants to undermine any hope of peace, an international conference and bringing in the Soviets is the best way.”

Rabin said that in his meetings with U.S. officials, “I heard about the ‘international umbrella.’” This was a phrase that some administration officials had begun using to try to sugarcoat the bitter pill. “Whenever anyone mention umbrella, it reminds me of Chamberlain and Munich,” Rabin declared.

Rabin’s statements were pretty remarkable, when you think about it. He had formerly served as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, so he was keenly sensitive to the need not to anger U.S. officials. Yet he publicly leaked the fact that they were using that deceptive “international umbrella” term. Not only did he leak it, but he openly criticized it, right there in Washington.

And not only did he criticize it—but he used the analogy of Chamberlain selling out to Hitler at Munich. For Rabin, of all people, to stand there in Washington and blast the U.S. administration and even invoke a Nazi analogy, was nothing less than astonishing. It really showed what a terrible threat an international conference (or “umbrella”) poses to Israel.

Such a conference, if held today, would consist of a dozen or more Arab and European countries ganging up on Israel and demanding that the Israelis make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. And given the Obama administration’s pro-Palestinian slant, one must assume that the U.S. would side with the Arabs and Europeans.

The purpose of the conference would not be to achieve a genuine peace. How do we know? Because the sponsor, France, has already declared that if the conference fails to produce a Palestinian state, then the French will unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state. That’s the goal—not peace, but a Palestinian state, as quickly as possible, no matter the risks to Israel. Which is why the Palestinian Authority’s Inciter in Chief, Mahmoud Abbas, is energetically supporting the conference idea.

During the past year, France has suffered the worst terrorist attacks in the world since 9/11. One would think that the French would understand the folly of appeasing Islamic terrorists and why oppose creating what would be an overwhelmingly-Muslim Palestinian terrorist state. Yet just the opposite has happened.

Why? Because the French are afraid. They are afraid of angering the Muslim world, afraid of more Muslim terrorism. The French believe that since they are defending themselves against Islamic State—which includes French planes bombing Muslim terrorists in Syria and the French police shutting down pro-terror mosques—they need to prove that they support Muslim causes. Supporting Palestinian statehood is France’s way of trying to appease the Muslim world.

The international conference proposal is just another way of throwing Israel under the bus. No wonder the Israelis—Likud or Labor, Netanyahu or Rabin, right or left—aren’t too excited about that prospect.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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