It’s been 30 years since the Madrid Conference, the aim of which was to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Yet, after three decades, Europe still hasn’t grasped what a failure it and all other such attempts have been.
I attended that conference, hopeful that it would lead, if not to a solution to the conflict, then at least to a move in that direction —with hatred for Israel put on a pause.
The Palestinians didn’t see it that way, however. In fact, rather than serving to shift the paradigm, the conference perfectly illustrated it. Like Penelope working at her loom during the day and unraveling her weaving every evening, the Palestinian delegation—including Hanan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat—was engaging in “peace” chitchat by day and rushing by night to report to PLO chief Yasser Arafat in Tunis by night.
They returned from the latter full of hatred and contempt for the Jewish people, which they expressed in vitriolic declarations that about Israel’s being a “colonialist occupier, and a “racist apartheid state.”
Meanwhile, then-Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa summoned the journalists in attendance to tell us with renewed fury that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir—who was listening, head in hand—was a terrorist.
Now again, Madrid and Rome are proposing an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference. This is ironic, given the 20-year anniversary of the “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” in Durban, South Africa—itself a festival of hatred.
Europe is well aware of the above conferences and other such failed endeavors, not one of which I have missed as a journalist. All have gone the same way.
The Oslo Accords, for example—subsequently signed by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat—resulted in the bloodbath of the Second Intifada.
Cities were evacuated in order to allow 98 percent of Palestinians to live under the jurisdiction of their government, the Palestinian Authority, where they still reside. But this was nothing meaningful for those who wished for the death of the “enemy,” Israel.
Israel also evacuated every last Jew from Gaza in August 2005. Despite this complete withdrawal from the Strip, the Palestinians and their apologists still called it “occupied”—illustrating perfectly that there is no territorial solution to the conflict. Perhaps the leaders of Spain and Italy haven’t been paying attention.
Perhaps they have forgotten, as well, the numerous other peace conferences that ended with multiple lucrative offers of land to the Palestinians—from Israeli prime ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu—each of which were met not only with resounding “noes,” but accompanying waves of terrorism.
What European leaders continually seem to ignore is the Palestinian belief that Israel shouldn’t and has no right to exist. It’s an ideology that’s woven into the fabric of Palestinian Authority propaganda, which includes accusations of Israeli “apartheid” and “genocide.”
Such allegations are nonsense that a clear and informed mind cannot accept. And they form the basis of the new anti-Semitism that prevents peace not only for Israel, but for the Jewish people the world over.
Still, “occupation” is the only word that the E.U. knows how to utter while accusing Israel of violating international law. It’s a comfortable mantra that has been proven false again and again, with every Israeli overture.
It’s time for the European Union to finally understand this if it truly wants peace and stability in the Middle East—where, in addition to Palestinian intransigence, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah wield influence through money, weapons and warfare—it has to look beyond useless peace conferences.
The E.U. now knows that not all Arab countries oppose peace with Israel, and that the Palestinian veto and attempts at criminalizing the Jewish state haven’t stopped them from pursuing it. The Abraham Accords are evidence.
If the Palestinians ever come to understand that friendship with Israel—based on peace for peace and tolerance for tolerance—is both possible and advantageous for anyone who truly seeks it, perhaps their racist hunger for destruction will subside.
Peace can be a goal that bears actual fruit—such as advancement in all realms of health, agriculture and water technology—not empty words. Indeed, it can provide hope for a better future for all the children of the region.
The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, as well as Egypt and Jordan, are living proof of this. They came to understand that Jews belong to this ancient land where they were born and to which they have returned, after centuries of suffering, with the aim of self-determination in a flourishing democracy.
If Europe really wants to involve the Palestinians in a peace process, it should invite them to Brussels within the framework of the Abraham Accords. It could ask them to follow the example of the above Arab States—the very countries that it embraced until it began kowtowing to Iran—and shun their contempt for the falsely dubbed “supremacist invader,” Israel.
To do this, however, it needs to be honest with itself about P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas. It must realize that he’s not a potential partner for peace, but rather a dictator who murders his rivals—one who canceled the Palestinian elections slated for May in order to retain his useless and harmful 17-year grip on power, and keep his hands on all the European money given to the P.A., with which he lines his pockets and funds his “pay for slay” program.
The peace-summit paradigm has got to be rethought. All an umpteenth conference will achieve is to dash any hope for peace that the Palestinian people might have, but are not able voice in the earshot of their leaders.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.