Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s familiar voice blared from the car radio in the noon hours of Jan. 15. “The conference convening today in Paris is useless,” the prime minister opined. On the roadside rose a giant, colorful billboard showing protesters carrying Palestinian flags captioned, in Arabic, “Soon we will be the majority.” Those wishing to find out who is behind the campaign of billboards lining roads throughout the country and ads filling newspaper pages are invited to call a speed-dial number.
I called the number. I listened to the recorded message and was persuaded that Netanyahu was right. The international conference in Paris designed to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was indeed futile. But not because, as the prime minister claimed, the views expressed at the conference hardened the positions of the Palestinians and distanced them from the negotiating table. The recorded message persuaded me that the conference did not contribute to peace and to reviving the moribund negotiations, because the Israeli peace camp had given up the fight even before the conference started.