France to offer its own Israeli-Palestinian peace plan if U.S. fails

Experts contend that any viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be multilateral in scope, though such a strategy appears unlikely at present.

By VICTOR CABRERA/THE MEDIA LINE
November 2, 2018 01:49
4 minute read.
France to offer its own Israeli-Palestinian peace plan if U.S. fails

France's President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump react as they hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 24, 2018. (photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)

 
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French President Emmanuel Macron intends to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a peace plan of his own if the United States fails to do so after the November 6 midterm elections. France relayed its intention to intervene in the process to members of the Israeli parliament last week.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late September, US President Donald Trump announced that his administration would unveil a comprehensive peace plan within two to four months. Israeli leaders and the Palestinian Authority have been anxiously awaiting the plan, which as Trump has indicated, will entail ‘tough’ concessions from both sides.

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Judy Dempsey, a Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor of its Strategic Europe Blog, told The Media Line that “the international community has been watching nervously as the peace process in the Middle East stagnates. If nothing else, Macron’s decision to step into the process raises the pressure to get things going.

“However, Macron’s announcement shows that the European Union hasn’t gotten anywhere with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. EU leaders believed America had to lead the negotiations. They stuck to the two-state solution without trying to implement it and they had no clout over the settlements or the PA,” Dempsey continued.

The EU has not taken a balanced position on the peace process, he explained. “By maintaining such strong support for the PA, while largely ignoring its violations, it has alienated Israel.”

James Moran, a senior Research Fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies and a former European ambassador to Egypt, told The Media Line that while the French “announcement adds political clout to the languishing issue, the substance of any peace plan coming from Macron would be very close to the classical frame of the two-state solution, without much innovation.

“Europeans are trusted by Palestinians. They are not, however, trusted by the Israelis. This is especially true of Netanyahu who, now and since the late ’90s, has not shown himself to be at all prepared to make advancements on the peace front. Instead, he has supported a hardline approach. The only party that can pressure him is the US,” Moran continued.

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Trump reportedly echoed that sentiment, indicating that he agrees with Macron who stated that Netanyahu prefers the status quo over making peace. 

Any plan that would be amenable to both the PA and Israel would have to come as a concerted international effort, Moran explained. But such cooperation could prove difficult given the differing European and American philosophies regarding the conflict.

“The EU has difficulties, too, because some states are not prepared to put pressure on Israel. The EU is a house divided on this topic,” Moran said. 

Dempsey added that “France thinks that it can compensate for the American slack, but it can’t do it without the rest of the EU. Macron wants to tell the Europeans to stop sleeping on the issue. If he accomplishes this, his next challenge would be to arrange an agreement with the US as any unilateral deal is ill-fated.”

The long-awaited US peace plan and France’s proposal to intervene comes against the backdrop of shifting American policy toward both sides of the conflict. Seen by the Palestinians as contentious moves were President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital late last year and making good on his campaign promise to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last May.

The move triggered a boycott of Trump administration officials by the Palestinian Authority, thereby adding more uncertainty to the resumption of talks.

President Trump’s recent decision to cut funding from UNWRA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), as well as to other aid packages for the Gaza Strip, has caused outrage among Palestinians.

Ahead of issuing its formal peace plan, the White House has also given contradictory signals as to what it could contain. In September, the president emphatically endorsed a two-state solution to the conflict—two independent states for both peoples.  Hours later, however, he backtracked. “Bottom line: If the Israelis and Palestinians want one state, that’s okay with me. If they want two states, that’s okay with me. I’m happy if they’re happy,” the president said in late September.

Confusion persists regarding the peace plan’s focus and how it will be received by the parties. Analysts are also eagerly anticipating the results of next week’s midterm elections, which could greatly impact the peace process if Democrats gain a majority in Congress.

Jason Greenblatt, special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, will be traveling to Israel for talks in preparation for the unveiling of the long-awaited plan. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly announced that leadership will reject any plan proffered by the Trump administration.  

Analysts believe that the vitriol on the Palestinian side underscores the need for a multilateral approach to the peace process, but doubt Macron has the necessary gravitas or that such a strategy even seems likely at present.

(Victor Cabrera is a student intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)

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