Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
PARIS - Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday that the basis for any future peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians remained a 2002 Arab offer, and urged Israel to accept it.
"The Arab peace initiative has all the elements for a final settlement," Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after a conference in Paris.
"It is on the table and a solid basis for resolving this long-standing dispute ... we hope that wisdom will prevail in Israel and that they accept this initiative.
French President Francois Hollande is scheduled to kick off an international conference on the Middle East in Paris Friday morning with the participation of 26 countries and international organizations, but not Israel nor the Palestinian Authority.
Israel has come out adamantly against the summit, with Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold saying on Thursday that it will fail. The Palestinian Authority has warmly welcomed the conference.
Among the participants will be US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and representatives from the Arab League. Although Russia, Germany, Britain and Japan will be among the 26 representations at the conference, they will not be represented by their foreign ministers.
Following an opening statement by Hollande, each representative is expected to make a statement on the primacy of Middle East peace and the importance of retaining the possibility of the two state solution.
The conference is expected to conclude with a press conference where conclusions – worked upon by the delegations on Thursday night – will be presented. The summit will be the first international gathering on the Middle East peace process since then US President George Bush convened the Annapolis conference in 2007. Both Israel and the Palestinians were invited to that parley.
The meeting’s initial focus is to reaffirm existing international texts and resolutions that are based on achieving a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip co-existing with Israel, an outcome the French said in a pre-summit document is increasingly coming under threat.
That document blamed the threat to the two-state solution primarily on settlement activity, without mentioning Palestinian violence, the Hamas-Fatah split, or the consistent Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
However, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a Le Monde interview that in order for there to be an agreement, the Palestinians needed reconciliation between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, and that Hamas needed to take the first step by recognizing Israel, accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and forswearing violence.
The Paris meeting will try to establish working groups comprising various countries that would meet in the coming months and tackle all aspects of the peace process.
Some groups would strive to creating economic incentives and security guarantees to convince both sides to return to talks. Others would focus on trying to find ways to break deadlocks that scuttled previous negotiations or look at whether other peace efforts such as a 2002 Arab initiative remain viable.
"France isn't trying to reinvent things that already are out there. The idea is to rebuild confidence and convince everybody to work together to find a way to get to the next conference," a senior french diplomat said. He said the objective was to get Israelis and Palestinians back together after the U.S. elections.
A senior US State Department official said Secretary of State John Kerry would bring no specific proposals to the conference.
US delegates will be in Paris "to listen to the ideas that the French and others may have, and talk through with them what might make sense going forward," the official said, dampening expectations.
On Monday, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote in Le Monde that the old method of bilateral talks had failed and that the Palestinians were left no choice but to move to a "multilateral framework" that would allow the international community to impose international law in the region.
Gold said that these words indicate that the Paris conference has already “made the Palestinian positions more extreme, and made it more difficult to resume direct talks.”
What is needed, Gold said, is an architecture of diplomacy that is currently being explored with the Arab states “that is based on the idea of supporting direct talks, not replacing them. One of the critical question of the conference is whether it increases the Palestinian incentive to negotiate,” Gold said. “And from what the Palestinians are saying, whether it is is Erekat or or [PA Prime Minister] Rami Hamdallah, it appears the French initiative is not making them more cooperative.”
Reuters contributed to this report