Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

France takes the initiative

Paris is pushing for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and adding an implicit threat as an incentive, not against the Palestinians, but against Tel Aviv, writes Ahmed Al-Sayed from Gaza

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In recent months, the EU started a new bid to revive talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which last came to a halt after the failure of US-sponsored negotiations in April 2014.

Senior European officials, including Federika Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, toured Israel and Palestine in an attempt to break the deadlock.

But it is France that seems to be leading the EU offensive to find a settlement to the decades-long dispute. French officials have come up with concrete ideas on how to address the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and are seeking UN endorsement of these ideas.

Palestinian officials, for their part, said they were ready to talk, but only with guarantees on three points: a complete halt of settlement activities; the release of prisoners, and especially the fourth batch of long-serving detainees; and a timetable to end the occupation by the end of 2017.

Palestinian analysts are not in an optimistic frame of mind about any of this, mainly because the current Israeli government, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, is unlikely to make any concessions.

Taysir Khaled, member of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) Executive Committee is one of the pessimists. According to him, the French plan is a “sterile option” and a “losing horse”.

On his Facebook page, Khaled wrote that, “The main ideas in the French initiative cannot be accepted, especially those speaking about Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and exchange of territories.”

In their initiative, the French envision a disarmed Palestinian state within the borders of 4 June 1967, with voluntary land swaps. The French also call for negotiations, not lasting more than 18 months, on a two-state solution.

If both sides fail to reach an agreement in the specified period, France promises to officially recognise the State of Palestine.

The French initiative calls for Jerusalem to be declared “a joint capital” of the two countries. The French urged “a just and realistic” solution of the issue of Palestinian refugees, that may involve “compensations”.

Khaled argues that the Palestinians, instead of wasting their time on more initiatives, should turn the resolutions passed by the Palestinian Central Council in Ramallah in March 2015 into a “national roadmap” that inspires their struggle against Israel, which he describes as a state imposing “colonial-style” occupation of a “racial” and “apartheid” nature.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is planning to visit Israel and Palestine in the next few months, hopes to be able to persuade both sides to cooperate with his country’s initiative.

According to French sources, Paris will put forward its initiative soon after 30 June, the deadline for concluding the nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran.

Washington, which is currently getting ready for the US presidential race, is unlikely to get active in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian analyst Mustafa Al-Sawwaf is critical of the French initiative.

According to Al-Sawwaf, the French want to “bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table without a quid pro quo”.

Israel is not enthusiastic about the initiative, Al-Sawwaf added.

During the recent mediation by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Israelis kept building settlements, refused to release prisoners, and kept insisting that the Palestinians should recognise what they called “the Jewishness of Israel”.

Talks between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel hit a snag on 29 April 2014 when Israel declined to release a batch of long-serving Palestinian prisoners and refused to stop building settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The PA reacted by applying to join several international treaties and bodies. Last December, it submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council demanding an end to the occupation by the close of 2017 an effort blocked by a US veto.

The PA won membership in the International Criminal Court in early April 2015.

Netanyahu recently said that he would accept a two-state solution only if the Palestinians recognise the “Jewishness of Israel” and cede their claim to major settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Speaking at a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last Sunday, Netanyahu said that the Palestinian state must be “disarmed” and recognise “the Jewishness of Israel”.

Netanyahu claimed that Israel’s problem with the Palestinians is not about land or borders, but about security. And yet he made it clear that his country is not willing to cede any of its major settlements in Palestinian territories.

According to Israel’s definition, the large settlements in the West Bank are Maale Adumim in East Jerusalem, Ariel in the central West Bank, and Gush Etzion in the southern parts of the West Bank.

Israeli media warned of a series of sanctions the EU intends to impose on Israel if it fails to resume negotiations.

For one thing, the EU is thinking of withdrawing European nationalities from all Israelis living in the West Bank and the Golan.

The EU said also that it would consider economic sanctions on Israel, which may involve a boycott of companies based in the settlements.

In October 2014, Sweden became the first country in Western Europe to recognise Palestine. But, should the current stalemate continue, other countries might follow suit.

Several European parliaments have issued non-binding recommendations to their governments to recognise Palestine. The UK House of Commons did so on 13 October 2014, the Spanish parliament followed suit on 18 November, the French on 2 December, the Irish on 11 December, and the Portuguese on 12 December.

A senior Israeli official, who spoke to Haaretz on condition to anonymity, said that Netanyahu was “very worried” about the EU intention to impose sanctions on Israel. Netanyahu is also concerned about the French threat to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution endorsing a clear formula for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Meanwhile, Maariv reported that the worst sanction Europe may impose would be that of stripping European nationalities from all Israelis living in settlements on Palestinian land.

According to Maariv, a Jewish woman living in Ariel received a notice from the Dutch government informing her that she would no longer be eligible to compensation related to Nazi persecution because of her residence in a settlement in this West Bank settlement.

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