Paris Meet Sees No Mideast Peace Without Palestinian State

  • About 75 states meet in France, days before Trump inauguration
  • Netanyahu says Paris meeting was ‘rigged’ by Palestinians

The creation of a Palestinian state remains the only acceptable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the resolution of an international meeting in Paris convened to signal frustration at the stalemate in peacemaking.

The final statement reaffirmed that Israel’s 1967 borders would be the basis for any agreement, offered incentives to both sides and told them to avoid steps that work against that solution. It welcomed the recent United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, but didn’t call for any follow-up action at the UN.

“We have the basis to continue working with the parties, and with the new U.S. administration which we hope to show that the world is united in seeking peace,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters at the end of the conference. “More than an organization, this meeting is about a state of mind.”

About 75 nations and international organizations gathered to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and seek an end Israel’s half-century occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where the Palestinians hope to establish a state. The last round of U.S.-led negotiations broke down in 2014.

Absentees

Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the conference. Netanyahu declined an invitation to come to Paris and be briefed during the meeting, saying the conference was “rigged” against his country and meant to impose conditions on Israel. Abbas, who supported the French initiative, is to meet French President Francois Hollande in coming weeks to discuss the results.

The statement called “upon both sides to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution, thus disassociating themselves from voices that reject this solution.”

Why call a peace conference without the main parties?

The conclave was held a week before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office. While he hasn’t articulated a clear policy, Trump has publicly emphasized his support for Israel, chosen an ambassador who raises money for the West Bank settlement of Beit El, and harshly criticized President Barack Obama’s decision not to veto the Dec. 23 Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, which allowed the measure to pass. Trump has also said he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a plan Abbas has urged him to scrap for the sake of peace and stability in the Middle East.

Trump, co-author of the 1987 best-seller “The Art of the Deal,” has said brokering a Middle East peace agreement would be the “ultimate deal.” In an interview with the Times of London published on Monday, Trump confirmed that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be appointed to broker a Middle East peace accord.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, in a text message Sunday evening, urged Trump to “stand with the international community” for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

‘Accountable’

“It is time to stop dealing with Israel as a country above the law and to hold it accountable for its systematic violations of international law and the rights of our people,” Erekat said in a later statement welcoming the outcome in Paris.

The conference made little impact in Israel, where the main evening newscast did not address it until nearly 25 minutes into the broadcast.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in a set of talking points circulated to reporters by text message, said the conference was an attempt to impose a solution to the conflict by outsiders who did not have to bear the consequences.

Sharp reactions by Netanyahu and other Israeli officials to the UN resolution “substantially softened” the final version of the conference declaration, according to the talking points. They also said the idea that everything beyond the 1967 border is Palestinian land is “incorrect” and “unrealistic,” and would continue to lead to a dead end.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, attending his last major international conference, spoke to Netanyahu afterward to assure him there would be no follow-up at the UN, the Israeli prime minister’s office said.

In a speech during the conference, Hollande said a peace agreement can only come about from direct talks between the two sides, and that the gathering wasn’t intended to dictate terms to them.

‘Threatened’

“The two-state solution continues to have widespread support, and is still the objective of the international community,” Hollande said. “But the two-state solution is threatened by the continued building of settlements, by the weakness of the peace camp, by mistrust between the two sides, and by the terrorists who have always feared a peace settlement.”

European foreign ministers will discuss the conclusions at their regular monthly meeting Monday in Brussels, Ayrault said, but that there’s no intention to present the conclusions to the Security Council for another resolution. He said he’s willing to meet Netanyahu and Abbas at “any time” to discuss the meeting’s conclusions.

Ayrault also said Trump’s plan to move the U.S. embassy in Israel would be a “provocation,” and that many participants in the Paris meeting expressed alarm about the proposed move.

Sunday’s meeting is a follow-up to a June gathering that established working groups on issues such as Palestinian economic development and institution building. Hollande said he knows many people consider Sunday’s meeting to be “naive” and “futile" but said it would be “cynical” to allow the status quo to endure.

The participants also said they’re ready to offer economic and political incentives to buttress a peace agreement, including a kind of“European special privileged partnership,”according to the final statement, which didn’t provide details.

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