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In Paris, grappling with Palestine

Fawaz Turki

Published: Updated:

It will not, of course, be an event comparable in range to the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919, whose end result was the emergence of a new world order, and at whose venue in Versailles then American president Woodrow Wilson promoted his Fourteen Points, that included self-determination for the “subjugated peoples.”

Rather, the one we have in mind, The Paris Peace Conference on the Middle East, to be held this Sunday in the City of Lights - bringing together more than 70 representatives of different countries and international organizations - will address itself to the issue of what to do about an implacable military occupation in Palestine that will mark its 50th anniversary next June, an occupation during which Palestinians have found themselves sinking deeper and deeper into despair, as they watched their ancestral land colonized, their national dignity assaulted and their right to freedom curtailed.

So expect no binding resolutions that will compel Israel to abide by international law, but expect statements of support for the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to statehood, freedom and independence. Attending the conference will be outgoing American Secretary of State John Kerry, the very man who found himself in the middle of a major kerfuffle when, with less than a month left in office, he delivered a speech on December 28 castigating Israel - and in no uncertain terms - for its occupation practices.

Palestinians are by now weary of peace conferences, which are cold comfort to a long-suffering people who had supped their fill of them, all the way from the 1969 Roger’s Peace Plan to the 1982 Reagan Peace Plan, and from the 1973 Geneva Conference to the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, all of which turned out to be a lot of hot air

Fawaz Turki

Truth be told, Palestinians are by now weary of peace conferences, which are cold comfort to a long-suffering people who had supped their fill of them, all the way from the 1969 Roger’s Peace Plan to the 1982 Reagan Peace Plan, and from the 1973 Geneva Conference to the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, all of which turned out to be a lot of hot air.

What can we expect from Paris?

And the Paris Peace Conference may end up being the same, not because the conferees will lack the commitment needed to address the issues, crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s as to who is the injured party in this dispute, but because there is now a new kid on the block, bombastic, vainglorious and strident, who will lead a country that calls itself “leader of the free world” over the next four years, a man who has said upfront that while he’s in office, what Israel wants, Israel will get.

And that is why Benjamin Netanyahu appeared comfortable recently saying that President Obama’s opposition to Israel’s colonies on Palestinian land is “a relic of the past, a last gasp of the past, before the future sets in,” clearly a reference to Inauguration Day on January 20.

Jerusalem? Forget about it, for Trump has promised to move the American embassy there with the impressive ease of a commuter moving from Queens to Manhattan. Washington’s relations with Israel? A piece of cake, for Trump’s pick as US ambassador to Israel is David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who knows little about the subtle art of statecraft but is an unabashed supporter of Israel’s colonization project. And America’s envoy to Middle East? That would be Donald Trump’s 35-year-old realtor son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew with fiercely pro-Israel sympathies.

Kushner, incidentally, who is a New Yorker, is close friends with Danny Damon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, a man who, after Israeli forces raided the Marmara, one of six civilian ships of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and killed nine Turkish activists on board in May 2010, famously wrote Turkey’s Prime Minster saying: “We are sorry that due to the IDF’s overcautious behavior, only nine terrorists were killed.”

And he is also friends with Dani Dayan, at one time Israel’s consul general in the Big Apple, who lives in a colony in the West Bank and heads the West Bank colonists’ organization, the Yesha Council, an extremist so extreme in his views that recently Brazil rejected his appointment as Israel’s ambassador in Brazilia, citing his “settler background.”

No wonder then that, while Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas were not expected to take part in the main gathering of the conference on Sunday, but expected to meet on Monday with French President Francois Hollande in order to be briefed on the proceedings, the Palestinian president accepted the invitation and the prime minister of the Israeli entity turned it down. He sniffed:” This conference is a fraud, a Palestinian scam under French auspices, whose goal is to lead to the adoption of anti-Israel positions.”

After all, why should he care? It will all be, he’s convinced, “a relic of the past” after the unhinged Donald Trump - who told reporters at his press conference last Wednesday that he is leader of “a movement like the world has never seen before” - occupies the White House several days from now.
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Fawaz Turki is a Palestinian-American journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington, DC

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.