by: Ilse Posselt
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 | On January 15, 2017 representatives from nations across the globe will flock to the French capital for a conference on peace in the Middle East. Yet instead of seeking a way to bring an end to the bloody civil war that has reduced parts of Syria to a smoldering rubble or finding a solution to the looming threat of the Islamic State cutting a swath of death and destruction in Iraq, the agenda of the peace parley will have but one item: resuscitating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and hammering out the parameters for renewed talks.
Seventy countries have been requested to attend and have their say at the high-level get-together. Yet the two parties whose fate the meeting is aimed at deciding, namely Israel and the Palestinians, have only been invited to meet separately at the conference’s conclusion.
Over the course of 2016, France had doggedly tried to kick-start the flailing peace process, hosting an “opening summit” on June 3, 2016. While the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), United States and a number of Arab countries attended the meeting, neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited. Following the June get-together, the French vowed to persist in their reconciliation efforts and host a follow-up conference before ushering in 2017.
Yet in early December Paris announced that the peace conference had been postponed and would now take place on 15 January—two days before the United Nations Security Council is rumored to vote on a number of anti-Israel resolutions and five days before President Barack Obama hands over the reins for America’s Commander in Chief to President-elect Donald Trump.
Israel has been opposed to the Paris plan since its inception and has stated repeatedly that it would not be involved in such a conference. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as early as May that “peace just does not get achieved through international conferences, UN-style. It does not get to fruition through international diktats or committees from countries around the world who are sitting and seeking to decide our fate and our security when they have no direct stake in it.”
Instead of an international forum where neither Israel nor the Palestinians would have any initial input, Netanyahu suggested an alternative initiative: a one-on-one meeting for “direct negotiations without preconditions, between the Israeli Prime Minister [and] the Palestinian President in Paris.”
“I will sit alone directly with President Abbas in the Élysée Palace or anywhere else that you choose,” Netanyahu offered at the time. “Every difficult issue will be on the table: mutual recognition, incitement, borders, refugees and yes, settlements—everything.”
Al-Monitor reports that although the French peace push will take place in less than two weeks concerned Israeli leaders, it was initially not seen as a cause of great alarm. That changed on December 23, 2016 when America did not exercise its veto power at the UNSC and allowed Resolution 2334 to pass, thus failing to protect Israel. The resolution condemns all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, including those in East Jerusalem and the Old City, as a gross violation of international law and a major stumbling block to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Then, days later, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered an address in which he proposed six principles for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and decried Israel’s “pernicious policy of settlement construction that is making peace impossible.”
In hindsight, Al-Monitor says Israel cannot help but wonder whether the various dates and actions have been coordinated. Specifically, the Jewish state is concerned that the Obama administration might use the Paris conference as a platform to determine and secure its own ideas for borders between Israel and the Palestinians at the UNSC.
Haaretz reported last week that Israel is apprehensive that Kerry might present America’s plan for a two-state solution—including borders—at the conference. Should the proposal be adopted, it could serve as the framework for yet another anti-Israel resolution to be tabled at the UNSC meeting scheduled for January 17.
In the aftermath of last month’s UNSC resolution, a number of prominent Jewish groups in America have spoken out strongly against the prospective Middle East peace conference, calling it “ill-conceived, poorly timed and damaging.”
“Now is a time for serious reflection on how peace can best be achieved,” the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote in a statement. “Not for another sham forum in which the usual one-sided outcomes against Israel are the likeliest result.”
“Israel has long sought direct talks; it is time for the Palestinian leaders to stop evading their responsibility and seeking to use international fora to avoid the only true path to a lasting peace,” the statement continued. Israeli leaders also made no secret of their beliefs regarding the upcoming get-together. “It is not a peace conference, but a tribunal against Israel that is intended to harm Israel,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. “We know the direction and the goal of the conference.”
Posted on January 4, 2017
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 04 January 2017)
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