With time running out on plans to hold an international Middle East peace conference in Paris, the French are reportedly planning on the week before Christmas for the event, which may not host either the Israelis or the Palestinians. French media Le Figaro reported that the Israelis are opposed to what they see as a process detrimental to the peace efforts, and so the French may not ultimately invite the Palestinians either lest the event look particularly one-sided with just them present.
The Jerusalem Post, citing Le Figaro and other French media, also reported that France was seeking a meeting alongside the conference between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But while not interested in the conference, Netanyahu isn’t opposed to meeting Abbas. On the contrary, the Israeli leader spoke with French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday to tell him “that if there is no international conference in Paris, he would come to meet with [Abbas] for direct talks without preconditions,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
The statement reiterated that Israel will not attend an international conference, “which will not contribute to achieving peace.” The Israelis have long argued that by expanding the nations involved, the process will put undue pressure on Israel and undercut the very negotiations that can bring peace.
That fear appears founded, even at this early stage. Le Figaro reported that the French want a statement that refers to the boundary lines of June 4, 1967 in the context of borders between the sides. Based off the armistice lines between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, that would give the Palestinians the Gaza Strip, the Judea and Samaria Biblical heartland of Israel, and the Old City of Jerusalem. Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, and Shechem are just some of the cities that would be under Palestinian control in that scenario.
While those boundary lines have been espoused by some as something of a goal at the outset, Israel has long argued that borders—which could not be reconfigured to line up exactly with the 1967 lines five decades later—should be part of the negotiations and not settled in advance.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, December 7, 2016)