US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini as they take part with other foreign ministers and representatives in a family picture during the Mideast peace conference in Paris, France, January 15, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Following Sunday’s conference for Middle East peace, Jewish groups in the United States have reiterated concerns they had expressed prior to the summit regarding its timing and utility.
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder called the Paris conference “meaningless and misguided” and said it resembled the “slew of anti-Israel forums we have seen of late in the United Nations.”
“If the international community wishes to see a productive peace process put in place, it must cease its repeated one-sided demands on Israel and recognize the reality on the ground,” he said.
“One must ask, what did France, and the more than 70 foreign officials it hosted today, really hope to achieve from such a summit?” Lauder said. “Both Israelis and Palestinians have heard the countless international demands to return to the negotiating table and both the Israelis and the Palestinians are fully aware that a two-state solution is the only viable option for a lasting peace.”
While Israel has repeatedly expressed its willingness to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, Lauder continued, the Palestinians have yet to do so.
In order to effectively assist in moving the peace process forward, the international community must “refrain from singling out Israel” and “urge the Palestinians to drop their preconditions and return to the negotiating table,” Lauder said.
Pro Israel demonstration outside Paris peace conference
“International peace summits such as these, with neither Israelis nor Palestinians in attendance, can result only in further derailing this critical negotiations process,” he said, adding that the Paris conference had “no practical results on the ground and a critical misunderstanding of the essential process required for reaching a two-state solution.”
Lauder also pointed out that while France has tried to position itself as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was also among the countries to support numerous anti-Israel decisions in the United Nations, including UN Security Council Resolution 2334 passed last month.
For David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, Sunday’s conference was “irrelevant at best, harmful at worst” to the pursuit of a peace deal.
Harris summed up his concerns in five points. First, he said, such diplomatic “end-run” only emboldens the Palestinians to believe that they can achieve their goals without the tough negotiating required of face-to-face talks.
Second, Israel’s own concerns were ignored at the conference and the timing of the event was unfortunate, as it took place only five days before the Trump administration takes office.
Thirdly, he said, “It is very possible that there will be some form of ‘payback’ after January 20, when the international community has to come to grips with the fact that the US is the one indispensable player in advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and may have a long memory about what occurred on January 15.”
His fourth point was specific to the French leadership, in that he believes “France didn’t help its own quest to be an ‘honest broker’ in the conflict; and finally, he said the conference sought to mobilize the globe on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of looking to more pressing issues which “cry out for attention and resolution, but to no avail,” including the crisis in Syria.
The Israel Policy Forum, a nonpartisan American organization composed of security and diplomacy experts from Israel and the US, said that while it welcomed endorsement of the two-state solution at the Paris summit, “imposing a solution on the parties without their involvement is neither advisable nor helpful.”
The forum said it questions the utility of negotiations toward a final-status agreement in an environment that “almost certainly guarantees their failure given the enormous distrust between the two sides.
“We appreciate that the Joint Declaration issued at the conference’s conclusion made no attempt to prejudice issues that are subject to permanent status negotiations, though we remain skeptical of the Paris conference’s timing in light of the uncertainty surrounding the new American administration’s policies toward Israel and two states,” it said.
The organization also called on the international community to “back constructive steps toward two states while avoiding any moves that will harden intransigent positions.”
Many American Jewish organizations had joined Israeli officials in strongly opposing the French initiative after the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334, condemning Israeli settlement activity, last month.
Some, like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, even called on President Francois Hollande to cancel the event.
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