Paris peace conference: A damp squib
A half-century of Israeli occupation is not going to be meaningfully addressed by international meetings.
As representatives of 70 nations gather in Paris on 15th January 2017 to discuss the moribund Middle East peace process, a healthy dose of scepticism is in order. Not so much about the conference’s prospects for success – it was not designed to succeed beyond the fact of being convened and producing a communique – but rather about the purpose of this exercise.
According to its French conveners, the objective of the conference was to reaffirm the international community’s collective commitment to a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, presumably with an eye towards the incoming Trump administration, emphasise that there is no alternative to this paradigm.
A serious commitment to such an objective could take several paths: Putting political flesh on the bones of the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution, 2334. The resolution condemns all Israeli settlement activity as illegal and calls upon member states to distinguish in their dealings between Israel and the occupied territories; collectively recognising Palestinian statehood; and/or determining that the Oslo agreements, and more broadly the formula of bilateral negotiations without preconditions under American auspices, has endangered, rather than promoted, a two-state settlement.
A conference that does not put the Israeli occupation and mechanisms for ending it front and centre of its deliberations does not really qualify as an international conference on promoting a two-state settlement.
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The conference’s draft communique would, in this respect, be laughable, were it not so tragic. Its preamble, for example, lauds Secretary of State John Kerry’s 28 December 2016 speech on the Middle East, which in significant respects seeks to water down not only key provisions of UNSC 2334, but also the prevailing international consensus on the question of Palestine.
More importantly, it specifically and exclusively references Kerry’s statement that, 23 years after Oslo, there is no role for the international community in ending the occupation and consummating a two-state settlement beyond coaxing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
If the French hosts indeed endorse the trope that “we cannot want peace more than the parties themselves”, and, in view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s furious denunciation of the conference, and clear preference of creeping annexation over Palestinian statehood, one wonders why Paris has gone to the trouble of convening this meeting at all.
by Mouin Rabbani
Mouin Rabbani is an independent Middle East analyst based in Amman, Jordan.