The French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday circulated comments made by Foreign Minister Alain Juppe last week saying that any solution to the Middle East conflict would need to recognize Israel as the nation-state for the Jewish people.

Israeli diplomatic officials reacted very positively to Juppe’s statement, saying it was an indication that the Europeans were moving in the direction of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position that recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people must be part of the parameters for future negotiations with the Palestinians – especially if they include the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed-upon swaps.

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At a press conference last week in Madrid, alongside Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez, Juppe was asked whether France supported the PA’s move to seek statehood recognition at the UN in September.

“France has a very clear position that joins that of Spain and all of our European partners: It is that there will be no solution to the conflict in the Middle East without recognition of two nation-states for two peoples. The nation-state of Israel for the Jewish people, and the nation-state of Palestine for the Palestinian people. There is no getting away from this,” he said.

Juppe added that France’s position on the Palestinian UN move would “depend primarily on the resolution – the text [that] will be discussed. As I said a moment ago, and as Mrs. Jimenez said, too, we shall discuss between us to try to coordinate a common position.”

Israeli diplomatic officials said Juppe’s comment was significant on two counts. The first is that it showed the Europeans had not yet come up with a united position on the Palestinian move, and that it would depend very much on the final working of the resolution.

The second significant element, according to the official, was that Juppe’s comment about the “nation-state of Israel for the Jewish people” seemed a clear signal as to the type of language France would like to see in the Palestinian statehood resolution in order to gain its support.

The official also said it was significant that the comment had been made at a press conference of the Spanish and French foreign ministers, not one between, for instance, the German and Italian foreign ministers, whose positions against the Palestinian UN vote are well known.

There are voices inside Israel saying that if the Palestinians would submit a resolution that indeed adopted the type of language Juppe put forward, Israel should actually accept it.

For weeks, diplomatic discussions have been quietly taking place regarding a formula for a return to negotiations that would be acceptable to both Israel and the Palestinians, and which could keep the PA from pressing the statehood issue at the UN.

One of those ideas has been that any formula for a return to negotiations that would use US President Barack Obama’s call for the pre-1967 lines, with mutually-agreed land swaps, as a baseline for the talks would also include language recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The Palestinians have so far opposed the insertion of this type of language inside the formula, saying they would return to talks only if Israel agreed to enter them with the pre-1967 lines as the baseline, and after freezing all construction in the settlements.

Earlier this month the Quartet met without issuing a statement on the diplomatic process, reportedly because there was no agreement among its members – the US, EU, Russia and the UN – whether the Jewish nation-state reference should be part of the equation.

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