France is scheduled to present its plan to jump-start and internationalize the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process to the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council when it meets in Brussels on Monday.
“I will present to my colleagues a draft initiative to relaunch the peace process,” French Foreign Minister Jean- Marc Ayrault said at a press conference in Paris that included US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“We all believe that we have to get out of this quagmire and try and set the necessary conditions for resuming the peace talks,” Ayrault said.
“That is why it is necessary to act and to truly launch some kind of momentum for hope in a region that badly needs it,” he added.
He explained that he had already received support for the initiative from the Arab League and planned to seek similar approval from Washington when he visits it next week.
French special envoy Pierre Vimont is in Israel and the Palestinian territories this week to hold meetings with officials on the plan. He will present the initiative to Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold on Monday.
Traditionally, the US has brokered past peace processes in tion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The last such effort fell apart in April 2014 and no initiative has been launched since then.
Israel and the US have stood firm in their belief that the best path forward is direct talks between the two parties. The Palestinians, however, have refused to engage in such talks and prefer instead a multilateral process such as the one proposed by the French.
France is lobbying countries to commit to a conference before May that would outline incentives and give guarantees for Israelis and Palestinians, seeking face-to-face talks before August. The process may also include a UN Security Council resolution to cement the contours of the two-state solution.
Mogherini said that the Quartet – the EU, the UN, Russia and the US – is working on a report that “is going in the same direction” as the French, but she did not specify what that meant.
“We will obviously coordinate action and steps so that the objective we share, which is two states, will be possibly achieved in the future,” she said.
The US has voiced support for the French effort, but has not yet endorsed the plan. The Obama administration last fall said it did not expect to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by January 2017 when the president leaves office.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that in spite of those earlier statements, the White House was weighing a new peace initiative.
At Sunday’s press conference in Paris, Kerry said of the French plan, “We welcome anyone’s efforts to try and find a way forward. We remain deeply committed to a two-state solution.”
“This moment is a difficult one because of the violence that has been taking place, and there are not many people in Israel and the region itself who have a belief in the possibility of a process,” Kerry said.
He noted that he has held conversations with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to find ways to improve the situation.
“There is no way any one entity, one country or person can resolve this,” said Kerry. “This will require the global community.”
He added that resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict would remove a source of anger and contention from the region.
In an opinion piece Gold wrote for Le Monde, the Foreign Ministry’s director-general said that, historically, direct talks had been the most fruitful way for Israel to achieve peace with its neighbors.
“While it is tempting for some in the West to envision convening a large international conference to somehow advance that goal, what is far more likely in that scenario is that the parties would negotiate with the other states and not with each other,” Gold wrote.
Such a multilateral process takes away any incentive the Palestinians might have to hold direct talks with Israel, he said.
“The cardinal question the international community must ask is whether they are incentivizing Abbas to come back to the negotiating table or disincentivizing him. If he reads that Israel is about to face new European pressures, he will believe that he can obtain his goals without reaching a peace agreement with Israel.
“This tactic is the quickest way for outside powers to destroy the peace process, not advance it,” Gold wrote.