Palestinians won’t benefit from multilateral peace process

For Israel, it was an obvious decision not to take a risk in working with a new group of mediators

December 12, 2017 11:37
2 minute read.
A protester holds a Palestinian flag as he runs during clashes with Israeli troops

A protester holds a Palestinian flag as he runs during clashes with Israeli troops as Palestinians call for a "day of rage" in response to US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)

Since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated a process to relocate the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to the city, the Palestinians have made it clear that they will no longer work with an American-led peace process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that the US is “no longer qualified to sponsor the peace process.”

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The question now is what Abbas plans to do if he no longer will cooperate with American-led peace efforts?

While the PA president has still not clearly stated what the Palestinian strategy will be moving forward, a number of senior Palestinian officials have suggested that the Palestinians want to work with a multilateral peace process that incorporates many international players.

Nabil Shaath, Abbas’s international affairs adviser, said on Sunday that establishing a multilateral framework for the peace process would better reflect the world’s realities.

“After the USSR fell, the US was ruling the world on its own. But today the world has changed. Russia, China and many states in Europe have become very powerful,” he said in a phone interview. “We believe the peace process should reflect this reality.”

A few days earlier, speaking to journalists and diplomats, Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Shtayyeh expressed a similar sentiment.

“I hope that Europe can prepare the ground for an alternative political track,” he said. “I hope…that Europe, Russia [and] China...will really form a new track for reactivating peace in our region.”

However, while the Palestinians may push for a new multilateral track, it will unlikely become a viable alternative to American-led talks, as Israel will almost certainly refuse to work with it.

That is exactly what happened at the end of former US Barack Obama’s administration when France, in coordination with the Palestinians, tried to develop a multilateral track for the peace process.

On January 15, 2017, France hosted some 70 foreign ministers and leaders of international organizations at a conference in Paris to discuss efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict and ostensibly explore the possibility of establishing a multilateral approach to the peace process.

At the end of the conference, the participating parties issued a declaration in support of a negotiated two-state solution, UN Security Council resolutions and Palestinian institution building. However, the declaration made no mention of a new multilateral framework to resolve the conflict.

The main issue was that Israel, which dominates most of the West Bank and a majority of the crossings in and out of Gaza, refused to work with the French efforts. At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the conference in France as “rigged.”

Without Israel’s support, there was no hope that the French efforts would lead to a Palestinian state or any other settlement.

Israel has long backed a US-led peace process because of its strategic relationship with Washington.

Consecutive American administrations have supported Israel and assured it that it would take its security, economic and other interests into account in its peace-making efforts.

Thus, for Israel, it was an obvious decision not to take a risk in working with a new group of mediators as a part of the French efforts, who may not be as concerned with its interests as the US. It should be no surprise if Israel holds the same position on a future effort to establish a multilateral framework for the peace process.

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