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France pursues Israeli-Palestinian peace deal


Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt have large areas overrun by terrorists trying to establish a genocidal state. Yemen is shattered by war. And military giants Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in an arms race.

But according to a French government document, circulated ahead of the launch of its peace initiative in Paris on Friday, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key issue in the Middle East.

And when foreign ministers from 28 nations meet they will seek to formulate the parameters of a future peace agreement without the presence of a single Israeli or Palestinian delegate.

The French document notes that while an agreement can only be reached in direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the gaps between the two sides demand an externally-imposed framework to bring them back to the negotiating table.

Israel has not officially been presented with the document and government officials would not comment on it. However, its description of the conflict as one that “creates precariousness and insecurity [and] fuels radical rhetoric and extremist violence” is unlikely to impress the Israeli government, which maintains that the last few years of turmoil and bloodshed throughout the Middle East should be proof that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a result of extremism in the region, not its cause.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the initiative, saying: “The path to peace is not via international conferences that attempt to force a settlement, that make the Palestinian demands more extreme and in the process distance peace.”

France is trying to set a deadline by which the Israelis and Palestinians must resolve – between each other – the main issues that divide them, as well as establish a Palestinian state.

Both sides will be invited to an international conference which the French government hopes to convene before the end of the year.

It is unclear whether the US and other nations at the meeting will go along with the French plan. Israel has already stated that it prefers direct talks with the Palestinian Authority and is, at least officially, leaning towards the Arab Peace Initiative, with modifications.

The French government document, which outlines its positions on the peace initiative, includes five points that President Francois Hollande hopes can be agreed upon.

Those include a reaffirmation of the international commitment to the two-state solution and an agreement on steps to be taken until the conference, which has yet to be scheduled.

In recent weeks, both France’s Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, and Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, have visited Jerusalem and Ramallah in an attempt to convince leaders on both sides to sign up to their initiative.

While the Palestinians are receptive, Israel continues to insist that progress between the sides can only be achieved through direct talks. Mr Netanyahu proposed that Mr Valls should facilitate such talks in Paris between him and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The

Palestinian position is that they will return to negotiations frozen since 2014 only when Israel suspends settlement building and releases Palestinian prisoners.

Despite the aversion of the current right-wing government to making concessions to the Palestinians at this point, and the opposition of many of its ministers to the two-state solution, both Mr Netanyahu and his new Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, are aware of the international pressure and have tailored their own statements accordingly.

On Monday, Mr Netanyahu said that “the Arab Peace Initiative includes positive elements that can help to rehabilitate constructive negotiations with the Palestinians”, and that Israel was “ready to conduct negotiations with Arab countries about updating the initiative, to reflect the dramatic changes in our region since 2002, but will retain the agreed-upon objective of two states for two peoples”.

Mr Lieberman also affirmed his own support of a two-state solution, saying: “I have spoken on more than one occasion about recognition of that same solution.”


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Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field