French President Francois Hollande enters the Elysee Palace in Paris.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Forget unrelenting terrorism, the Hamas-Fatah split, and the consistent Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jews. According to a French pre-summit paper published on Thursday, settlement activity is the main threat to a two-state solution.
The brief document put out by the French Foreign Ministry to explain the French initiative and the one-day Mideast summit to be held in Paris on Friday said the two-state solution was under increased threat, “particularly with regard to continued settlement activities.”
Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said in response that what has disrupted the peace process more than any other factor since the 1993 Oslo Accords has been the “breakdown of security due to the Palestinian adoption of violence against Israel.”
Citing the suicide bombings, the rockets from Gaza, and the current wave of knife attacks, Gold said that “to ignore this recent history and focus on Israeli settlements is to completely distort what is going on in the Middle East.”
The document did not include a word regarding any Palestinian culpability for the current diplomatic logjam. It also seemed to seek to revitalize the notion, which lost much of its currency following the Arab Spring, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the core of instability in the Middle East.
“The crises engulfing the region have in no way reduced the significance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the paper read. “It is up to us to take action to recreate a political outlook which encourages renewed bilateral negotiations between the two currently deadlocked parties.”
The paper explained that the initiative was launched “because the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is worsening due to the lack of prospects for negotiations.”
The document was released a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again blasted the initiative as an attempt to impose a solution from the outside, and something that will only harden the Palestinians’ negotiating position. Netanyahu reiterated his opposition as well on Thursday during a meeting with visiting Finnish foreign minister Timo Soini.
The meeting will open in the morning, and close with an afternoon press conference by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. After the 30 countries and international organizations invited to the summit review the situation on the ground, “talks will then be held on the details of organizing an international conference, to take place by the end of the year, with the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited to take part in Friday’s meeting.
The aim of Friday’s summit, according to the paper, is “to mobilize the entire international community so that it can actively support re-launching the peace process. To achieve this, we must first together reaffirm our commitment to the two-state solution, which is the only solution which will ensure a fair and lasting resolution to the conflict.”
The French intend Friday’s summit to be just the first step of a longer process that will culminate in an international conference that “will enable us to lay the foundation for re-launching the peace process.”
Gold said that he was struck by the fact that this summit is being held on the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement that delineated the lines of the modern Middle East following the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire.
Sykes-Picot, he said, was “drafted in the heyday of European colonialism in the Middle East.
It failed, as we see today in the streets of Libya and Iraq, and this newest effort will fail as well.”