by Amb. Freddy Eytan
The international community’s mental fixation in concentrating solely on the Palestinian problem have proved a complete failure over the years, and have contributed nothing to changing the nature of the Middle East. Quite the contrary.
We are now marking 100 years since the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement to divide the Middle East between France and Britain. The national borders that were then arbitrarily and irresponsibly drawn are now collapsing before our eyes, threatening chaos in the region as a whole.
With the aim of clarifying the reasons for the collapse and for the emergence of the current situation, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA)’s researchers have conducted a detailed study of the issue and, along with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, have organized an international conference in Jerusalem that will be attended by the leading experts and by members of the diplomatic community in Israel.
Sykes-Picot Map INN:LK
The aim of the research and of the conference is to inspire fruitful thought and to prove, on the basis of historical facts, that over the past 100 years the international powers have pursued a naïve, self-serving, and erroneous approach to understanding the people of the Middle East, and that in reality the Palestinian problem is not the core of the conflict. Indeed, if the Palestinian problem were to be solved here and now, would all of the region’s other problems have been solved? Would the threats posed by Iran and Hezbollah, by the Islamic State, and the waves of terror attacks all fade from the scene?
The international community’s mental fixation and stubbornness in concentrating solely on the Palestinian problem have proved a complete failure over the years, and have contributed nothing to changing the nature of the Middle East. On the contrary, it has encouraged terror and sown instability in the entire region.
Today, 100 years after Sykes-Picot, this whole region, which was then under Ottoman control, is in a state of upheaval. Fierce battles rage from Damascus and Aleppo to the Sinai Peninsula, from Baghdad to Tripoli (in Libya) and to Yemen.
The failure of Western diplomacy already began at the time of Sykes-Picot, and it runs like a thread up to the present day. It is clear that the local conflicts, both ethnic and religious, remain unresolved, and that the attempts to overthrow totalitarian regimes in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, and Libya with the ostensible aim of establishing Western democracies in their stead have fallen far short of the mark.
Europe has not only failed in its foreign policy throughout the years. It is now struggling to thwart Islamic terror attacks on its own soil, and it is not coping successfully with the immigration waves of refugees from the Middle Eastern battlefields.
The main conclusion is that the international community must understand once and for all that neither Iran’s threats to destroy Israel nor the ongoing Palestinian terror will succeed to defeat Israel.
Only recognition of the existence of a Jewish state will lead to real peace. So long as none of the Arab states, let alone the Palestinians, accepts the fact that peace can only result from direct talks, trust, and mutual recognition, no stability will reign here.
The historical facts clearly demonstrate that none of the attempts by the Western states and the United Nations to dictate borders and impose an order, as France and Britain tried to do a century ago, have borne fruit. It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that clinging to this mistaken approach today will only make the Middle East an arena of unceasing violent conflicts.
Amb. Freddy Eytan, a former Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel’s embassies in Paris and Brussels, was Israel’s first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He was also the spokesman of the Israeli delegation in the peace process with the Palestinians. Since 2007, he heads the Israel-Europe Project at the Jerusalem Center, which focuses on analyzing Israeli relations with the countries of Europe and seeks to develop ties and avenues of bilateral cooperation. He is also the director of Le Cape, the Jerusalem Center website in French. Amb. Eytan has written 20 books about the Israeli-Arab conflict and the policy of France in the Middle East, including La Poudriere (The Powder Keg) and Le double jeu (the Double Game). He has also published biographies of Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, and a book, The 18 Who Built Israel.
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