Paris talks to send strong message to Israel, Trump

Paris talks to send strong message to Israel, Trump
Palestinian children in the village of Kfar Qaddum, occupied West Bank, carry placards during a demonstration on Friday against proposed plans by US President-elect Donald Trump to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2017

Paris talks to send strong message to Israel, Trump

Paris talks to send strong message to Israel, Trump

JEDDAH: In a strong message to Israel and the incoming US administration of Donald Trump, dozens of countries are expected this weekend to reiterate their opposition to Israeli settlements and call for the establishment of a Palestinian state as “the only way” to ensure peace in the region.
France is hosting more than 70 countries on Sunday at a Middle East Summit, in what will be a final chance for the administration of US President Barack Obama to lay out its positions for the region.
Husam Zomlot, adviser for strategic affairs to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “We seek at the Paris peace talks to make the world shoulder its responsibility toward the Palestinian people and its cause.”
He added that the world has two choices: Persuade Israel to implement international law and resolutions, or impose sanctions on it and recognize a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and full sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967.
“The conference itself is an achievement. We’ve been trying for years to convince concerned international parties that bilateral negotiations with Israel aren’t feasible,” Zomlot told Arab News.
“Israel has been using negotiations just to procrastinate and gain more time to change the reality on the ground and build more settlements.”
He added that representatives from 72 countries, including 40 foreign ministers, are attending, making the Paris conference important because its decisions will make the international community shoulder its responsibilities in order to achieve justice for the Palestinian people.
“We want this conference to be an opportunity to have mechanisms for the implementation of a just solution to the Palestinian cause,” he said.
“We hope the conference will issue a clear decision and participants follow up the implementation of international resolutions.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the conference is an important opportunity to emphasize the two-state solution and the illegality of settlements.
“The international community is required to assert to the Israeli government that its rejection of UN resolutions would cause more unrest and instability in the region and the world,” said Abu Rudeineh.
“We’re ready for a just peace that leads to security and stability. The Palestinian, Arab and Islamic position considers Jerusalem a red line that can’t be tampered with by any party.”
According to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution.”
It also will affirm that the international community “will not recognize” changes to Israel's pre-1967 lines without agreement by both sides.
The draft says participants will affirm “that a negotiated solution with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, is the only way to achieve enduring peace.”
Israel has settled some 600,000 of its citizens in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians for a future independent state. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 war.
The Summit comes on the heels of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2334 last month that condemned settlements as illegal.
The resolution passed 14-0 after the US declined to use its traditional veto power and instead abstained.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is attending Sunday’s Summit as one of his last international appearances in an official capacity, said in a farewell speech last month that Israel’s continued settlement growth threatens the possibility of a two-state solution. He also criticized Palestinian attacks on civilians and incitement to violence.
On Sunday, a Palestinian truck driver rammed his vehicle into a crowd of Israeli soldiers at a popular Jerusalem tourist spot, killing four people and wounding 17 in the deadliest single attack of more than a year of violence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a return to the 1967 lines, and many members of his nationalist coalition oppose Palestinian independence and support expanding settlements.
Netanyahu has rejected UNSC resolution 2334, and accuses the Obama administration of conspiring behind Israel’s back.
Israel has refused to participate in the French conference, which Netanyahu on Thursday claimed was “rigged” against his country.
The Palestinians, who are not invited to the conference, have welcomed the French initiative. In recent years, they have campaigned for the international community to assume a greater role in resolving the conflict. Abbas is expected to visit France in the coming weeks to follow up on the conference.
Netanyahu rejects international attempts to “impose” a solution, saying peace can only be reached through direction negotiations.
On Thursday, French President Francois Hollande said the conference aims to ensure the support of the international community for the two-state solution as a reference for future direct negotiations.
“I can’t accept the status quo, letting people think that the conflict would resolve itself. It’s not true. That’s why France took the initiative of a conference on the Middle East,” Hollande said.
“The objective is to reaffirm the support of the international community to the two-state solution and ensure that this solution remains the reference. But I see that has weakened, on the ground and in the minds (of people). If we let it decay, it would be a risk for the security of Israel.”
French diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media about the event, said the timing of the conference — days before Trump’s inauguration — is meant to present him with a collective international push for peace once he takes office.
Trump not yet laid out a clear policy for the region, but has signaled he will be more sympathetic to Israel’s hard-line right than previous administrations.
While indicating an eagerness to broker a peace agreement, his election platform did not mention a Palestinian state.
Trump has appointed David Friedman, a Jewish-American lawyer with close ties to the settlement movement, as his ambassador to Israel.
Trump has also vowed to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step the Palestinians strongly oppose.
In their confirmation hearings, Trump’s Cabinet picks have voiced mixed messages. His nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said a two-state solution is “the dream that everyone is in pursuit of,” but he also questioned its feasibility.