Crafting peace and building a safer world

Justin Vaïsse’s op-ed on the Israel-Hamas war

8 November 2023

Israel-Hamas war

"How can we resolve the dramas inherited from the 20th century so that they do not prevent us from responding to those of the 21st?"


Published in Le Monde, 8 November 2023


Justin Vaïsse, founder and director general of the Paris Peace Forum, to be held from November 9 to 11, reminds us in an op-ed for "Le Monde" that a peaceful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be found by working for peace in the short, medium and long term.


Even in this moment of darkness in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no effort must be spared to resume peace talks: we cannot let the flame go out. But as soon as it comes to knowing which political levers to mobilize for effective action, realistic answers are lacking.

What can peacemakers do with this conflict that is making our societies a little more fragile and global disorder a little more acute – and that complicates coordination on major common issues such as climate, health or artificial intelligence? How can we deal with both dramatic emergencies as well as existential challenges, how can we resolve the tragedies inherited from the 20th century so that they do not prevent us from responding to those of the 21st?


Alleviating the suffering of the Gazan population

The answer undoubtedly lies in three different time horizons, which the sixth edition of the Paris Peace Forum - taking place from November 9 to 11 [at the Palais Brongniart, Paris] - will attempt to articulate.

In the short term, the guns must fall silent as soon as possible, and the laws of war must be fully respected. This phase of the conflict must be accompanied by resolute action on the part of Europeans to alleviate the suffering of the Gazan population. This is the aim of the international humanitarian conference on Thursday November 9, convened by France to mobilize and accentuate this support from all: States, NGOs, international institutions.

This conference is all the more important as we must prevent the gap from widening too deeply between the populations of the region, but also between the West and the rest of the world, creating an even more unfavorable environment for future negotiations. The terrorist trap set on October 7, like that of September 11, 2001, was designed to radicalize positions.

To ward off the rhetoric of the clash of civilizations and the North-South divide, Europeans must accept the diversity of their positions on this issue - the "North" is no more united than the "South" - and reinforce their support for international law. They must also dismantle the accusation of "double standards" that compares their response to the situation in Ukraine with their response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


The enemies of the two-state solution

In the medium term, peace requires diplomacy, and this is undoubtedly the hardest part. The prospect of a lasting political settlement, which seemed within reach in the mid-1990s, has receded as far as the eye can see, to the point of almost disappearing. The enemies of the two-state solution, notably the Israeli far right and Hamas, have been objective allies in making it impossible.

And the idea that an Arab-Israeli peace, while desirable in itself, would be a step that would naturally lead to an Israeli-Palestinian peace - an idea that often prevailed from the Camp David Accords (1978) to the Abraham Accords (2020) - has once again been disproved. All the more so as the October 7 trap was also designed to undermine the rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, to the benefit of Iran.

And yet, the new fault line structuring the Middle East - the antagonism between the Iranian axis and the Sunni powers - must no longer distract us from the Palestinian problem itself, which many have tried to ignore and forget. French diplomacy has often brought it back to the fore, as at the Paris conference in January 2017 - prompting American and Israeli criticism, with Benyamin Netanyahu going so far as to call the event "a jolt from yesterday's world". Shortly afterwards, the Trump administration embarked America on a catastrophic Middle East policy.

On the contrary, October 7 served as a reminder that the settlement of the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem must be dealt with on their own merits. Now, the medium-term task is to find a credible Palestinian interlocutor, present in both Gaza and the West Bank; to obtain a renewed Israeli commitment once Hamas has been removed; and to renew the thread of dialogue between societies, which the Paris Peace Forum will attempt to do this week.


Global warming, misinformation and artificial intelligence

Finally, in the long term, neither today's humanitarian emergency nor the diplomatic work of the next few months should distract us from working towards a more stable and less belligerent international environment, since global challenges are constantly interacting with open crises.

To take just three examples, global warming, disinformation on social networks and artificial intelligence are not the cause of current wars in Ukraine, the Middle East, Armenia, Sudan or elsewhere. But these factors combine with crises and amplify them. And without regulation, they are also, in themselves, factors in tomorrow's wars.

If we are serious about building peace, we must therefore also tackle these challenges of long-term global governance, advance common standards and find points of consensus on our two major common challenges: the environment and the exponential acceleration of technological innovation.

The current multi-crisis situation calls for combining these three time horizons of peace, in a degraded institutional environment: the UN is often prevented from acting by the spread of international rivalries. All the more reason to help it, and to spare no effort in standing by the side of a world in trouble.


Justin Vaïsse is founder and director general of the Paris Peace Forum.