News Analysis: New French initiative for Israeli-Palestinian peace faces difficulties

15:34, June 08, 2011      

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by Adam Gonn

France has presented a new plan to break the deadlock in direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but faces opposition from both the United States and Israel.

The plan envisions the 1967 lines, which existed before the Six Day War, as the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state.

The French initiative agrees mostly with a recent speech by U.S. President Barack Obama, but goes further to emphasize security for the two states, not only for Israel.

Moreover, the new bid sets one year as the timetable for the two sides to agree on the status of Jerusalem and resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees.

During a joint press conference on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe agreed that talks need to be resumed, but only when the parties show the willingness to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the Americans, on their own, are also trying to get the talks going again with hopes of avoiding a vote at the United Nations in September on a resolution recognizing an independent Palestinian state. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, the U.S. isn't interested in letting the French take over the leading role in the negotiations.

The newspaper also said that senior Israeli and Palestinian officials have traveled to Washington for separate talks with Americans, with talks being held at both the White House and State Department.

Israeli and Palestinian analysts were quick to praise the new French initiative, but were not optimistic about its future.

ISRAELI REJECTION

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the French bid. His coalition partner, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the French offer needs to be taken under serious consideration.

Despite Barak's comments, Prof. Mohammed Dajani of Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem told Xinhua that Netanyahu's rejection would most probably be the official Israeli response.

Dajani praised the French initiative, but was skeptical whether it would be successful.

"I don't think that it has much of a chance now in these times, " Dajani said. "The question today is more about the course of Israel and Netanyahu, and whether he is willing or ready to move away from his coalition, which he wouldn't do. So the situation is blocked."

Netanyahu leads a center-right government, including parties that favor continued Israeli settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, areas where the Palestinians aim to establish their independent state one day.

LACK OF MOTIVATION

Dr. Dan Schueftan of the University of Haifa said France wants to be taken seriously as a mediator in the Middle East, while the U.S. doesn't want France standing in the way.

Schueftan argued that either the American or the French bid would be useful, since "Obama has already made both parties lost interest in serious negotiations."

"So the question that whether the insignificant discussions occur in Washington or Paris becomes secondary, as the Palestinians have no plan to engage in negotiations right now," Schueftan said.

He argued that Israel also can't trust the U.S. as Obama said in a speech last month that the 1967 lines should be the basis for a future Palestinian state's borders. Netanyahu has rejected the idea immediately, claiming that the plan would leave Israel with " indefensible borders."

FLAWED U.S. POLICY

There would be limited progress within Obama's remaining time in the White House, as the president has a "tendency of constantly making the wrong policy choices," Schueftan said.

In addition to the issue of the 1967 lines, Schueftan pointed at the way the U.S. reacted earlier this year when former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a long-time regional ally, came under pressure to step down following massive street protests.

One frequently heard argument is that the current stalemate in negotiations came about in September 2010, after a 10-month Israeli freeze in the West Bank settlement construction ended.

The U.S. insisted on the freeze as a measure of goodwill to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, the results were meager after 10 months, and the Palestinians National Authority has refused to embark on any talks while the settlement building was underway.

This impasse is believed to be one of the main reasons behind the Palestinian bid for a UN recognition of statehood in September.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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