France Still Plans Peace Summit Despite US Disinterest, Palestinian Despair

French still planning peace summit despite plunging expectations. French, Israeli flags. Illustrative.

French still planning peace summit despite plunging expectations. French, Israeli flags. Illustrative.

With Israel opposed to international imposition and the United States dismissive, the French are still planning to go forward with their international Middle East peace summit before the end of the year according to media reports and a recent statement. Meanwhile, even the Palestinians, whose government is pushing for the French plan, don’t expect to get what they want from it.

A plurality of 41% Palestinians do not think the French initiative would “meet the Palestinian requirements in the peace process,” according to the latest public opinion poll from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO). Just 35% think that the French plan would achieve the Palestinian objectives and just a narrow plurality of 33% even support the Palestinian government’s acceptance of the French approach. Despite all that, The Times of Israel reported that the French are sticking to the plan following a report from Ynet saying the French had dropped it amidst US opposition.

Last week, the French were insisting that plans for the summit hadn’t changed with the election of President Donald Trump in the U.S. or Israel’s decision not to attend. “Our goal is to convene an international conference in order to help relaunch the Middle East peace process. We are working closely with our partners and in collaboration with the parties to that end,” said a statement from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson and posted on the French embassy to the U.S. website.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down the French plan in favor of direct negotiations amidst concerns about international pressure and imposition of a deal rather than honest direct talks.

And while 53% of Palestinians in the PCPO poll reject direct peace talks with Israel after the latter chose not to accept the French plan, Netanyahu has continued to call upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate peace directly.

In comments released by his office on Sunday, Netanyahu pointed to nearly four decades of peace with Egypt as evidence of what direct talks can do. The Israeli leader contrasted Egypt’s continued peace with Abbas’ actions, who “refuses to come to direct negotiations without preconditions, is also continuing to incite his people regarding the idea of a right of return and erasing the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu further noted that while Abbas, “to my regret, is not taking the right steps to start calming things and preparing public opinion for reconciliation with the State of Israel,” they have seen “the buds of a start here” of that among some Arab nations.

Said Netanyahu of Abbas’ intransigence, “I hope this will change.”

Dr. Nabil Kukali, who prepared the PCPO poll and was paraphrased in the group’s press release, may be pushing the French plan himself, but even he sees the need for grassroots change in the Israel-Palestinian relationship.

The release said that Dr. Kukali added that “he believes the [incoming U.S. President Donald] Trump administration must focus on a reconciliation process between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the basis of people-to-people activities that would alleviate the profound mutual distrust and suspicion and ingrain love instead of hatred… enabling thereby both parties to reach the desired peace.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 20, 2016)

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