Having promised to be as different from his predecessor as possible, France’s outgoing President Francois Hollande is set to end his five-year term as a poor caricature of Nicholas Sarkozy.
To start with, like Sarkozy, he is to be a one-term president. Sarkozy had his moment of mock heroism by bombing Libya; Hollande did his saber-rattling in the deserts of Mali. In his term, Sarkozy switched wives; Hollande replaced an old girlfriend with a new one. Both administrations were rocked by financial and sexual scandals of the kind that would have made gossip mongers blush even in old Byzantium.
Now, to complete his imitation of Sarkozy, Hollande is also holding an international conference on Palestine, a subject that makes the Western elites feel good about themselves without any positive results for the Palestinians. There is only one difference this time: Sarkozy held his Palestine conference before Christmas in 2007, Hollande is convening his this weekend, after Saint Nicholas has come and gone.
But what is this rigmarole about?
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and other senior officials have offered a number of “objectives”, all presented as variations on the theme of peace.
“Our aim is a just peace,” he minister says.
The trouble is that no peace is ever just if only because it creates a new status quo in which one side to the war that preceded it wins and the other loses.
Even if he gets everything he wants, the victor will still feel somehow robbed of part of his spoils. The vanquished on the other hand will also see himself as victim of injustice because he has to bow to the diktat of defeat.
French officials also talk of seeking a “negotiated peace”. However there has never been a negotiated peace, although the modalities of forging new relations between the belligerents could and are negotiated.
The history of war and peace is as long as human history.
Peace is always imposed by the victor after the vanquished has admitted defeat. Since the end of World War II, we have known numerous wars as a result of which changes of borders and territories have occurred in more than 40 countries across the globe.
In every case, the victor dictated his terms and the vanquished learned to live with them, even if with a grudge.
For example Russia hangs on to vast territories it won from China in the border wars of the 1960. It has also annexed the Kuril Islands; snatched from Japan in 1945. And that is not to mention territories that Russia has annexed more recently from Georgia and Ukraine.
For its part China has annexed segments of the Kashmir-Ladakh highlands from India while nibbling at territories of other neighbors notably Vietnam.
The two veto-holding members of the Security Council are not alone in annexing other people’s territories.
At the other end of the globe, Chile has annexed Bolivia’s only outlet to sea while Venezuela has nibbled on Colombian territory with the help of Narco-Marxist rebels.
In Europe, Serbia has seen Kosovo, its historic “national heart”, torn away from it and turned into a semi-independent mini-state.
In Transcaucasia, with help from Russia and Iran, Armenia has annexed the enclave of High Qarabagh from neighboring Azerbaijan.
Sub-Saharan Africa is full of examples of border changes as a result of wars provoked thy irredentist ambitions.
Many of the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) are also involved in territorial disputes including among themselves.
Even the Vietnam War ended when North Vietnam, as victor, imposed its objective of annexing the South Vietnam on United States as loser.
One might cite the accords between Israel on the one side and Egypt and Jordan on the other as examples of negotiated peace. But there, too, the victor achieved its objective, which was recognition by its two neighbors; while Egypt and Jordan abandoned their initial war objective which was to prevent the creation of Israel. What were negotiated were the terms of implementation.
In a more poetic note, French officials spoke of establishing “peace among the brave”.
However, in reality, there has never been record of such peace– the brave don’t make peace, they fight to the bitter end. Only the lesser mortals make peace by resisting the siren songs of vain glory.
Peace is just peace, bitter pill administered by the winner of a war and reluctantly swallowed by the loser. Adding any adjective to peace modifies it into nothingness.
The root cause of the Israel-Palestine problem is the intervention by the outside world, notably the United Nations, in a war-and-peace situation which is the most intimate and exclusive kind of relationship between nations.
That intervention has prevented Israel from dictating its terms as victor, as every victor in history has done, and has persuaded, first Egypt and Jordan and then the Palestinian authority, not to admit defeat and accept the new status quo resulting from it. The result is the stalemate in which the outside do-gooders do nothing but diplomatic gesticulations such as this weekend’s conference in Paris.
Unless the do-gooders of Paris are prepared to enter the foray and force the Israelis out, all talk of returning to the 1967 “borders” is disingenuous to say the least. Those were ceasefire lines, not borders and, in a sense, symbolized a fragile status quo that led to war. In any case, Gaza, which Israel took from Egypt, has already been abandoned to its fate. It is unlikely that Egypt would want to have it back. That leaves the West Bank; which Israel took from Jordan which had in turn took it from the UN mandate.
Since 1980, Egypt and Jordan; along with other Arab League members, have acknowledged the existence of a distinct Palestinian polity to represents the Arab inhabitants of the territories captured.
Thus, those not in control of the Arab side of the war are scripted to play the vanquished while those who triggered the war have made peace with the victor.
To make matters worse, the “international community” urges the Palestinians to shun the mantle of the vanquished while doing its best to prevent the victor from reaping the fruits of victory by creating a new status quo in his favor.
The result is a knife-in-the wound situation which may make Hollande and Barack Obama feel good about themselves by making speeches and sponsoring conferences and resolutions while the Palestinians and the Israelis who directly feel the pain continue to suffer it on a daily basis.