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No peace on the horizon

Jun 09,2016 - Last updated at Jun 09,2016

The French-sponsored conference that was attended by senior representatives of 26 countries, including senior French and American officials, has failed to outline the next step towards reaching the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict now approaching 50 years.

This disappointing outcome underlines the fact that this solution may not be sustainable.

France’s objective in hosting this one-day event last week in Paris was not very clear, although French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault acknowledged that the two-state solution is in “serious danger [and] we are reaching a point of no return where this solution will not be possible”.

In turn, US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose many attempts to negotiate a settlement also failed, emphasised that all the participants at the Paris meeting agreed that direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians would be the only way to arrive at a solution.

This mirrors the position favoured by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was not invited to the conference.

There was talk about a new session towards the end of the year, not a very good time as the US will have a new government that will be preoccupied with establishing its administration and working out its relationship with the opposition party.

In other words, the projected follow-up meeting may be held later next year.

An interesting point was raised by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who underlined at the Paris meeting that it was the duty of international and regional players to find a breakthrough since the two sides appeared incapable of doing so alone.

Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington and long-time participant in the US negotiations with the Palestinians and Israelis, admitted last Sunday in a column published in The Washington Post that he has not “given up hope for smart and well-timed US diplomacy”.

But, he continued, “I’ve abandoned my illusions of just how much America is able and willing to do to repair a badly broken, cruel and unforgiving Middle East. 

“As the fix-it people, Americans have a hard time accepting when those directly involved aren’t willing or able to do so. But sometimes, it makes more sense for our diplomats and negotiators to stay home rather than look weak and ineffective while searching for solutions to problems they simply cannot resolve”.

Surprising this week was the trip Netanyahu made to Moscow in an obvious attempt to divert attention from the Paris meeting and snub Washington for participating in the conference.

At the same time, he unexpectedly focused his attention on the Arab Peace Initiative, under which the 22-member League of Arab States offer normal relations with Israel provided it withdraws from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The plan, revealed in 2002, has never been discussed in the Israeli Cabinet.

“In a familiar muddying of the water,” wrote Jonathan Cook in Mondoweiss, a news website, Netanyahu “has spent the past week talking up peace while fiercely criticising” the Paris conference, “the only diplomatic initiative on the horizon”.

He noted that this was “the first time Israel has faced being dragged into talks not presided over by its Washington patron” and underlined: “That risks setting a dangerous precedent… worr[ying] that this time Washington may not be able — or willing to watch his back.”

Cook’s conclusion: “Still, Israel will try to ride out the French initiative until Obama’s successor is installed next year. Then Netanyahu hopes he can forget about the threat of two states once and for all.”

Cook’s column had this headline: “Israel wants a peace process — but only if it’s doomed to fail.”

 

 

The writer is a Washington-based columnist.

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