French President Emmanuel Macron..
(photo credit: REUTERS/PHILIPPE WOJAZER)
There were several highlights to the important meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Emmanuel Macron Abbas in Paris on Friday.
Abbas: US no longer a partner in peace
Although Abbas indicated that the Palestinians are looking to France and other countries for leadership in supporting their demands, he also appeared to leave the door open for American work in the peace process once President Donald Trump has left office. With American envoy Jason Greenblatt in Israel last week, Abbas has chosen symbolically to ignore the continued US interest in the peace process. The Palestinians also made it clear that US Vice President Mike Pence was not welcome to come for Christmas. Pence chose to go to Afghanistan on a surprise visit instead.
The history of Palestinian rocky relations with various US administrations shows that Abbas’s claims to push the US out of the process probably will be temporary. Other US administrations have all come and gone with the same cycle of difficulties, either with Israel or with the Palestinians.Macron: Stability in the region and security of Palestine
Macron stressed the important of stability and security in his comments. He noted that “the role of France is to ensure stability in the region” and security for Israel and the Palestinians. Macron has said the war with Islamic State is coming to an end and France is likely to announce that by February, according to previous comments from Macron’s office. This shows that after ISIS, France wants to play an increasingly important role in the peace process. France is seeking to fill a vacuum created by distrust for Trump on the Palestinian side.
France has tried this before. In 2016 then-French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault attempted to “relaunch” the peace process. However, those efforts did not make headway. Macron supports Fatah- Hamas reconciliation.Macron supports Fatah- Hamas reconciliation
Despite the reconciliation agreement signed between the Palestinian factions in October and the return of Palestinian Authority officials to Gaza’s border with Egypt, the reconciliation has been paused since mid-November. By December the PA was supposed to be in charge again in Gaza. The US decision on Jerusalem has thrown a wrench into any kind of reconciliation by distracting from it.Abbas condemns Israel for ‘expanding’ in West Bank
Abbas claimed that Israel continues to expand in areas the world has identified as occupied Palestinian land and force “native people out of their homes.” He also mentioned the case of Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian girl arrested after slapping an Israeli soldier. He also claimed that Israel killed a man during a “peaceful protest,” an apparent reference to the shooting death of a disabled Palestinian man on Gaza’s border with Israel. Abbas wants sympathy for these cases and he sought to highlight them and claimed that the international community has seen the suffering of Palestinians and that this will encourage EU and foreign support.
Abbas: Palestine is fighting terrorism
Abbas claimed that the PA is “one of the main parties that continues to fight against terrorism and violence... and spread the culture of peace.”
His constant references to peace and claims that his PA government is a partner in the international coalition against terrorism is part of his attempt to position the Palestinians as partners with the EU and the West, and are an opening to the peace process that France says it wants to help foster, including Macron’s comments about having hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently. However, the question remains how to get to the peace table. Given the divide between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and between the US position and that of France and others, it is not clear how Israel and the Palestinians can reach an agreement.