Netanyahu’s aides tell visiting envoy they expect Paris not to push processes in conflict with Israel’s ‘official position’
Israel will not participate in an international conference on the peace process hosted by France, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top aides declared Monday.
The French government’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Pierre Vimont, is visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week to push Paris’s plan to hold a conference in December.
He met Monday with acting National Security Adviser Yakov Nagel and Netanyahu confidant Isaac Molcho, who told him in “a unambiguous and unequivocal fashion” that real progress and a lasting peace agreement could only emerge through direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and the PA, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
“Any other initiatives only distance the region from such a process,” the statement continued. “It was explained to the French envoy that Israel will not participate in any international conference convened in opposition to its position.”
The French initiative “greatly harms the possibilities for advancing the peace process,” the statement said, arguing that it would allow PA President Mahmoud Abbas to avoid returning to direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions.
“Israel is certain and expects that France will not advance a conference or process contradicting the State of Israel’s official position,” it said.
Netanyahu on Monday morning was hosting his Fijian counterpart, Voreqe Bainimara, and did not meet with Vimont.
The French envoy, a soft-spoken veteran diplomat, was slated to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Monday evening. He is to travel to the United States next week to take the outgoing administration’s temperature on the planned Paris conference.
On Sunday, Vimont said that while he understands that Israel is opposed to the French initiative, it would send a positive signal if Netanyahu were to attend nonetheless.
“If at the end of the day, the Israeli government would decide to participate in the Paris conference, it will show genuine, sincere commitment to the two-state solution,” he said at a conference in Tel Aviv, according to Haaretz.
The French are aware that it is currently impossible to get Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate in earnest, let alone reach a peace agreement, officials in Paris said. The proposed international conference is not intended to force either side into concessions or even to formulate a framework for a future agreement. Rather, one of its core goals is to get both parties, as well as regional and international actors, to restate clearly their commitment to the two-state solution.
“We are in no way trying to impose a solution on the two sides. It is about getting the international community involved again in the peace process,” he said in Tel Aviv.
Times Of Israel
European politicians express concern at their citizens’ lack of interest in the peace process; France’s envoy to the region says his country’s initiative will test Israel’s resolve to reach a solution.
Pierre Vimont, France’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said at a conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday that it was his government’s intention to move forward on the French peace initiative by the end of this year.
The conference was held by the Macro Center for Political Economics and the Institute for National Security Studies. Vimont said that the current status quo was distancing the two-state solution and necessitating intervention: “We want to revive the two-state solution in this window of opportunity and return it to the international agenda.”
The diplomat also said that promoting the initiative is a test of wills to see if the Israelis and Palestinians truly want to reach a solution. “The French initiative is not an attempt to get involved in Israeli policy, but an attempt to harness the goodwill of the international community for the sake of a solution,” he explained. “The initiative prompted additional peace initiatives and partners who had never gotten involved in the subject asked how they could contribute and help promote the initiative. The initiative is intended, inter alia, to reexamine which of the parties is interested in proceeded and who isn’t. If the Israeli government decides to attend, it will be a test of Israel’s commitment to the issue.”
Leader of the Opposition Isaac Herzog also participated at the event. Regarding the peace process, he said that he preferred direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority supported by Arab countries. “The Arab Quartet—Egypt, Jordan, Saud Arabia and the UAE—has tried to lead such a process in recent months, and it was the basis of my talks with Netanyahu on unity,” he said.
“Today, the regional opportunity is the important opportunity. I already said that I don’t see how (Netanyahu) and (Abbas) can promote anything. International intervention can be dangerous and only increase the violence between the peoples.”
Speakers at the conference, current and past politicians, warned against a reduction in European interest in the conflict. Former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema said, “The danger is from the reduction in European involvement in solving the conflict and not from over-involvement. Europeans today are against aid for soldiers on the Lebanese border, against aid for Israel, against financial aid for the Palestinians. The European public doesn’t understand why they should invest there.”
Dore Gold on Abbas (dabbles in the total denial of Jewish history), settlements (not a block to peace), and ties with the Arab world (the Saudis aren’t about to open an embassy in Jerusalem, but…)’
It was unclear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was kidding or being serious when, answering questions in the Knesset Monday, he congratulated “the foreign minister and his staff” for their excellent work in broadening and deepening Israel’s international relations. He was straight-faced, seemingly in earnest. But surely not, since he was speaking about himself; Netanyahu is the foreign minister.
What is not up for debate is that under his stewardship, the Israeli government can boast some impressive foreign policy achievements: increasingly warm ties with powerhouses Russia, China, Japan and India, normalization with Turkey, new friendships in Africa and, perhaps most importantly, a noticeable rapprochement with Egypt and with other Arab states that have never formally recognized Israel’s existence.
On the downside, relations with Jerusalem’s traditional key allies — the United States and the European Union — are tense due to substantive disagreements over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Dore Gold, a long-time confidant of the prime minister, has become the face of Israel’s foreign policy since he became the director-general of the Foreign Ministry in June 2015. In a wide-ranging interview, the Connecticut-born diplomat laid out his views on the current Palestinian leadership and the logic behind Israel’s strategy vis-a-vis with the Arab world. He also elaborated on Israel’s rejection of the French effort to revive the stalled peace process.
Jerusalem, Gold said, will likely boycott a French-planned international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Paris, if it goes ahead later this year. Such a summit would “undermine the whole peace process,” he argued.
“We weren’t invited for the first round… I doubt we’ll be there for the second one because we have been very clear about our problems with this whole French scheme,” Gold said.
On June 3, France hosted a conference attended by top officials from 28 countries. Israelis and Palestinians were not invited. Paris said at the time that the meeting was merely the “first step” and that it would begin joint work to organize an international conference to be held by the end of the year “and which will unite the entire international community around the Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Israeli government has repeatedly made plain its opposition, arguing that international conferences serve to harden Palestinian negotiating positions and insisting that only direct bilateral talks between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to progress in the stalled peace process.
Speaking to The Times of Israel, Gold doubled down on Israel’s criticism. “The French initiative unfortunately is an alternative to direct negotiations. I’ve seen French statements on that, and it’s undermining the whole peace process that was begun in Madrid,” he said. Gold was referring to a 1991 summit attended by Israel (including then-deputy foreign minister Netanyahu), Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, which marked the first time the parties of the Middle East conflict sat together and held direct negotiations.
The planned Paris summit cannot be seen as a continuation of that historic conference, Gold said, because “Madrid, and afterwards of course the Oslo accords, envisioned specifically direct negotiations without preconditions,” Gold said. “That’s the international consensus, and the French initiative is a deviation.”
While he insisted that bilateral direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority are the only way forward, however, Gold also said he doubted that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is truly interested in reaching an agreement with Israel.
Asked whether he thinks Abbas truly supports a two-state solution, Gold replied: “He has certain maps in his mind that are beyond the maps the people of Israel can accept. He dabbles in the delegitimization of Israel and in the total denial of Jewish history. That raises serious questions whether he can deliver, or wants to deliver, a permanent solution. I’m not sure he wants to”
Gold, who served as an adviser to Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister in the late 1990s, added: “There are serious questions about [Abbas’s] intentions. Unfortunately, he has fallen into a pattern of behavior of relying on vicious incitement against the people of Israel, which simply cannot be accepted.”
In the 1990s, Gold spent many hours negotiating with Abbas and knows him personally “very well,” he said.
“Maybe there was a time he was appearing on the White House Lawn and he was negotiating with [former Israeli politician] Yossi Beilin, that created the impression of him being very moderate. But his need for using incitement to violence and condoning terrorist acts after the fact just raises serious questions about whether he can ultimately be relied upon to produce a political settlement.”
Gold was reluctant to discuss how Israel is preparing for the period after Abbas, who is 81, leaves the political stage.
“It’s not up to Israel to pick Palestinian leaders,” he said. “However, it is up to Israel to comment if (potential) Palestinian leaders have blood on their hands or have actively been involved in the killing of Israeli citizens. We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said, possibly referring to the potential candidacy of the popular Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in Israeli jail for orchestrating murders during the Second Intifada.
Gold also addressed international criticism of Israel’s policy of expanding Jewish communities outside the pre-1967 lines, rejecting arguments that such settlement activity is rendering a two-state solution impossible.
The international reaction to the “addition of another row of houses in an existing settlement” in the West Bank is “very difficult to understand,” he said. The often-made argument that a growing number of settlers will make a future evacuation of settlements impossible “is not necessarily true,” he also posited, since most of the Jews live in settlement blocs that are expected to be annexed to Israel in a peace deal.
‘Settlements have not blocked a peace deal’
“So it depends on how the cartographers draw the maps. But there’s no reason why you can’t get a significant percentage of the Jews in the West Bank within sovereign Israel in the future. And others may decide to live there [after an agreement and presumable withdrawal]. We may come up with some other arrangements, which I don’t really want to go into at this point. But the addition of Jews is not what’s blocking a peace settlement.”
Israel has uprooted settlements in the past — in Sinai, Gaza, and elsewhere — and could do it again, Gold argued. “But settlements have not blocked a peace settlement. What’s blocking the peace settlement is this Palestinian resorting to violence.”
Gold, who has been heading the Foreign Ministry since June 2015, has held meetings with senior officials from Arab countries, including some that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Like Netanyahu, and in contrast to conventional wisdom, he believes that improving ties with the Arab states could enable a peace deal with the Ramallah, as opposed to the other way around.
“The conventional wisdom for the last few decades has been that a solution to the Palestinian issues will result in improved ties between Israel and the Arab world,” Gold told The Times of Israel last month. “But there is a serious basis for thinking that, actually, the sequence is exactly the opposite — that by improving ties with the Arab states, we set the stage for a future breakthrough with the Palestinians.”
This notion should not be seen “in overly dramatic terms,” he cautioned in this interview, however. No one is suggesting that the Saudis are about to open an embassy in Jerusalem, he stressed. “But what happens is that as Israelis and diplomats from the Arab world interact more intensively — and even as allies — their readiness in the future to use their diplomatic weight should increase,” Gold said.
At recent conference in Abu Dhabi that Gold addressed via satellite, an Emirati official “criticized the Palestinians for running to the Security Council and not going to the General Assembly as the Emirates suggested,” Gold recalled. “If there’s dissonance, it will become expressed; if there’s a suggestion of how to move things forward in a positive way, they’ll make it. And I think slowly but surely it might affect our ability to shape a peace settlement down the road. The Arab world is extremely important for doing precisely that.”
Israel should not “wait for the Palestinians to come along” before seeking a rapprochement with the Arab states, Gold added. “We can develop ties with the Arab states, perhaps at a low level, perhaps under the table, and perhaps certain types of ties that can be more overt. We have the opportunity to explore them.”
In the meantime, are the Arab nations not unfairly taking advantage of Israel, benefiting from clandestine cooperation but refusing to recognize Israel, and in some cases even publicly attacking Israel?
“Obviously, what the Arab world could get from Israel would be considerably greater if they opened up more fully to Israel,” Gold replied. “But we work with them on a level we’re comfortable with, given the nature of our relations. And we’re hopeful this can be transformed in the future. How and where — we’ll see.”
Diplomatic processes are not always a 24-hour affair, he said. Rather, they involve building relationships and trust with individuals over time.
This is how his personal relationship with former top Saudi official Anwar Eshki came about, resulting in a rare joint public appearance in Washington DC last year (just before Gold took up his current government position).
“At the end of the day, they were actually interested in having an open meeting and not just keeping it under the table,” Gold said about this contacts with Eshki. “Sometimes you can see in various contexts that there will be greater readiness in the future. I don’t think we have to be sitting here waiting for another international conference with Arab states and Israel, and that’s the be-all and end-all. [Such major events can be] important, and that’s why we make such efforts with the Arab states. But if we don’t have that big international conference next week, it’s not the end of the world.”
Times Of Israel
Address calls for realistic means of resuming peace talks with the PA amidst EU support for French initiative
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday, ending his two-day visit to Brussels where he met with King Phillipe and Prime Minister Charles Michel. His address focused on global terror, the peace process with the Palestinians, but most importantly
A day ahead of the United Kingdom vote whether to remain in the European Union, Rivlin began his speech relating to the establishment of the State of Israel post World War II and challenges facing the Jewish State until now, stating “The State of Israel too is an audacious endeavor of statehood, of a people returning to its land after two thousand years of exile. And so, just like you, Israel faces difficult and complex challenges. But, unlike Europe which embarked upon a process of removing partitions between nations and states, Israel wishes, and indeed must, remain first and foremost a national homeland, a safe haven for the Jewish People. The State of Israel is by no means a compensation for the Holocaust, but the Holocaust has posited as a basic tenet the necessity and vitality of the return of the Jewish People to history, as a nation taking its fate in its own hands.”
He went on to address the “massive criticism aimed at Israel in Europe” in what he described “stems from, inter alia, a misunderstanding and an impatience toward this existential need of the Jewish Nation and the State of Israel,” explaining that “On the other hand, and much to my regret, Israel has a growing sense of impatience (when it comes to Europe). There are those who feel anger and frustration toward certain European actions, vis-à-vis what they perceive as sometimes unfair criticism, sometimes even contaminated by elements of condescension, and some would even say double standard.”
The President called for patience amidst disagreement, for Israel’s sovereignty, stating “My European friends, we cannot agree on everything. But as friends and as true allies, I call upon you and ask you, let us be patient. Please respect the Israeli considerations, even when different from your own. Respect Israeli sovereignty, and the democratic process of its decision-making. Respect Israel’s staunch commitment, indeed its very duty, to protect its citizens. For us it is the most sacred commandment of all.”
Speaking of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Rivlin addressed the issues in connection with a two-state solution and resumption of peace talks amidst the European Union’s avid support of the French peace initiative just two days following the adoption of a resolution by the EU French Council. He summarized the issues in reaching a permanent agreement, stating “Currently the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us – the Israelis and the Palestinians – are failing to materialize… First, in order to achieve a comprehensive permanent agreement, an effective leadership is required. However, the Palestinian leadership today is divided in – at least – two. The Palestinian Authority ruling over Judea and Samaria, and on the other hand, Hamas, which rules Gaza and is ideologically committed – in both its political and military leadership – to the annihilation of Israel. Second, in order to achieve a stable and viable agreement, a reasonable regional and economic infrastructure is required. But we are living in a reality where the plague of murderous Jihadi fundamentalism, religious fanaticism and incitement – embodied in the Islamic State and Hezbollah – are at our very borders and have not missed out Gaza and the West Bank either; we live in a reality of a chaos-stricken Middle East in which uncertainty is the only certainty. To this worrisome picture, add the dire economic straits, poverty, and lack of infrastructure in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, which in turn will continue the destabilization and nurture violence. In this respect Israel is devoting, and will continue to do so, vast efforts, more than any other actor in the region even at the price of complex security risk-taking – but Israeli intervention alone will not suffice. And finally, one should bear in mind the most fundamental trait of Israeli-Palestinian relations today which is, to my deep regret, a total lack of trust between the parties on all levels; between the leaderships and the peoples.”
He addresses terror and failed talks as the reason an agreement has not been made, stating “as years go by and rounds of negotiations fail one by one, bringing in their wake, waves of murderous violence and terror, it seems that this assumption of a “lack of good will” proves not only to be fundamentally erroneous, but to ignore the circumstances, the capabilities, and the present situation on the ground, which by definition would lead to the failure of any attempt to negotiate a permanent agreement.” He went on to address the French peace initiative, stating that “The French initiative, adopted by the EU institutions only a few days ago, suffers from those very fundamental faults. The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake, not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it. This striving for a permanent agreement ‘now’, is the chronicle of a predictable failure, which will only push the two peoples deeper into despair. This despair is the hottest bed for extremism, and undermines the endeavors of moderates. And this despair, ladies and gentlemen, today seizes not just members of my generation, but also boys and girls growing up in this part of the world, whose world view and awareness are shaped by the violent present. This despair, ladies and gentlemen, is the gravest danger looming over us, Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
He reiterated Israel’s commitment to direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, without preconditions, as the only viable means of resuming peace negotiations, stressing that “if the international community really wishes and truly aspires to be a constructive player, it must divert its efforts away from the renewal of negotiations for negotiations’ sake, and toward building trust between the parties, and to creating the necessary terms for the success of negotiations in the future.”
Rivlin stressed four terms for reaching a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, that of “harnessing the moderate powers in the region,” referring to established cooperation and peace with Arab states such as Jordan and Egypt, “developing Palestinian economy and infrastructures for quality of life”, the need for a stable Palestinian economy and infrastructure, pursuit of “joint interests and fourth and finally education and communication in combatting “deep-rooted hatred and fear”.
The Israeli President ended his speech stating that “Small steps created a great reality. Help us step forward, step together with us, for the sake of the possibility that one day, an Israeli president will tell another world leader, ‘If we and the Palestinians have made peace and put an end to it once and for all, there is really no reason whatsoever that you cannot succeed. We fought many dozens of years and now it is over, forever’… Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may all who love her prosper. Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. (Psalms 122, 6-8).”
Prime minister, US secretary of state to rendezvous next week amid growing international pressure to restart negotiations with Palestinians
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome amid growing international pressure for the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday that the prime minister will meet Kerry early next week, without providing further details.
Israeli media has reported that the two will discuss resuming talks with the Palestinians that collapsed two years ago.
Netanyahu faces mounting pressure over the conflict with the Palestinians. He opposes a French initiative, insisting a deal can only be reached in direct negotiations between the two sides. Palestinians have welcomed the French initiative.
On Monday a meeting of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers in Brussels unanimously endorsed the French plan to host an international peace process later this year.
Israel has repeatedly rejected the French initiative, arguing that it hardens Palestinian negotiating positions and thus distances peace.
The Quartet of Mideast mediators — the UN, US, European Union and Russia — are finalizing a report on the conflict expected to be critical of Israel.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014 amid mutual recriminations.
Times Of Israel
Israeli President Reuben Rivlin, who visited the EU offices under heavy security, related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: “It won’t bring us closer to the long-awaited solution but pushes us deeper into a despair that leads to extremism.”
Israeli President Reuben Rivlin delivered a speech today at the EU Parliament in the framework of his visit to the EU and Belgium. He came with heavy security and the visit was arranged alongside the arrival of Palestinian Authority leader Abu Mazen. In the background of the visit, there is the recent political process that includes the French initiative and a regional initiative led by Egypt.
“I can say that there is a 4 hour flight and light years separating Brussels and Tel Aviv but the truth is that there is not a lot of distance regarding conciousness between them,” he stated. “The two cities are cosmopolitan neighbors that are not so far away from each other. Both cities were recently hit by terrorism.” During his speech, Rivlin stated that “many European countries share a rich and painful history with the Jewish people.”
After reviewing the bloody history experienced by the Jewish people in Europe, Rivlin stated that “what is equally important is the strong bond created between us and at the same time, our extensive cooperation today is expressed in the fields of research and innovation, health and environment, education and culture, etc. Anway that we look at it, we expect our present, past and future to be tied together.”
“Humanity cannot be what it is without Europe and Europe cannot be what it is without the Jewish people,” he noted. “Liberty, equality, justice, pluralism, religious tolerance and democracy are the basic values inscribed in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. These are also the founding values of the European Union.”
“Like you, Israel has faced difficult and complex tests but unlike Europe who has gone through a process of removing barriers between nations and states, Israel first and foremost wants to remain the national homeland and safe haven for the Jewish people,” Rivlin declared. “The State of Israel cannot in any way compensate for the Holocaust but the Holocaust as a basic fact places as a neccessity and essentiality that history compels the Jewish people to place its own fate into its own hands.”
Rivlin stated that he is sensitive to the fact that much of the criticism directed at Israel in Europe is due to “a lack of understanding for the need for a national homeland of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Unfortunately, to our great sorrow, also Israel lacks patience. There are some developpers who are angry and frustrated with the European processes as they live the reality of the unfair criticism occassionally and at times are even patronized.”
“I stand here today and tell you most clearly: Since 1993 when we signed the Oslo Agreements, the Israeli leadership supported and continues to support two states for two peoples,” Rivlin declared. “Moreover, knowing the Israeli Parliament, I know that any political arrangement brought before the Knesset in Israel by an elected government will be confirmed.” However, Rivlin noted that as of today, the conditions don’t exist where it is possible to reach a permanent settlement.
“The international community is working as a mediator between the two sides based on a rigid paradigm of striving for the resumption of the final status negotiations,” Rivlin added. “This paradigm sketches a dichotom space: two states or a binational state, an all or nothing, here and now or never approach. By the way, the various European countries opposed the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt on the grounds that it did not offer a solution to the conflict. If this concept was accepted, one can imagine where we would be today.” Rivlin added that the assumption that the lack of good will caused the failure of the arrangement has been proven to be wrong.
“It is impossible to hope to achieve a better result when using the same concepts and the same tools that have failed repeatedly in previous rounds,” Rivlin proclaimed. “The French Initiative adopted by the EU only a few days ago suffers from the same fundemental flaws. The attempt to return to having negotiations only in order to have negotiations and not to bring us to the desired result distances us from it. This permanent settlement is now known to be a chronicle of failure in advance that only pushes the two nations deeper into despair, which is known to be fertile breeding grounds for extremism and nullifies the ground under which the moderates stand.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is extremely dangerous for us, Palestinians and Israelis alike,” Rivlin concluded. “If the international community really aspires to be a constructive player, then divert the efforts from negotiations to building confidence between the parties and creating the neccessary conditions for peace.”
European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday that the EU will “back up a peace deal with an unprecedented package of cooperation and support to both Israel and the future state of Palestine.”
Tusk said after talks in Brussels with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who is currently on a state visit in Brussles, that “a lasting peace in the region remains a top priority” for the EU.
EU foreign ministers expressed determination on Monday to throw the organization’s weight behind Middle East peace moves and a possible international conference before the end of the year.
They invited EU agencies to present proposals “including on economic incentives, without delay.”
During a meeting between President Rivlin and Tusk, which took place shortly before the statements were made, Rivlin said, “Promoting peace in the Middle East is a vital interest of Israel. At the same time, I believe that our special bi-lateral relations can grow and develop in an independent way.”
Tusk acknowledged Israel’s security concerns: “We will deepen our cooperation on counter-terrorism, including by launching our dialogue in this area later this year. Terrorism can only be defeated if we face it together.”
The statements about the EU package came following the European Union’s Foreign Ministers Council’s welcoming on Monday of the French initiative to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians following deliberations in Luxembourg on the situation in the Middle East.
“The Council welcomes the Joint Communiqué on the Middle East peace initiative adopted at the Ministerial meeting in Paris on 3 June 2016,” the ministers said in a joint statement issued following their meeting in Brussels on Monday.
European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council has decided to adopt the French peace initiative, according to a statement released Monday afternoon.
“The Council welcomes the Joint Communiqué on the Middle East peace initiative adopted at the Ministerial meeting in Paris on 3 June 2016,” it read.
“The Council reiterates its support for a just, sustainable and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace and stability in the region. The EU is determined, alongside other international and regional partners, to bring a concrete and substantial contribution to a global set of incentives for the parties to make peace.
“The Council also reaffirms the European proposal, as endorsed in the Council Conclusions of December 2013, of an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to be offered to and developed with both parties in the context of a final status agreement.”
The Foreign Affairs Council consulted with the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, before coming to its decision. A full report will be released this weekend, though Israeli officials are already concerned about its content.
Officials in Jerusalem have not yet commented on the statement.
Channel 2: PM spoke to secretary on eve of Friday’s Paris summit; conversation helped yield a mild concluding statement in French capital
In a telephone conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “said yes” to new efforts led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia for regional progress toward peace, an Israeli television report said.
The call was made on the eve of Friday’s Paris peace summit, and was a factor in the summit’s vague concluding communique, which Kerry helped negotiate, and which did not set a firm date for the international peace conference Paris wants to host by the year’s end, the Channel 2 report said.
Netanyahu also telephoned France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hours after the summit ended, and told him that France and its allies would best advance peace prospects if, rather than pushing their own initiative, they pressed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas into resuming direct talks with Israel, a source close to the prime minister said. Netanyahu also told Ayrault that France’s bid to host an international conference could wind up complicating regional efforts that might actually have a chance of making progress, the source said.
Dore Gold, the director general of the Foreign Ministry, told The Times of Israel earlier this week that Israel was hopeful that improved ties with Arab states would ultimately yield Arab pressure on the Palestinians for substantive progress.
“The conventional wisdom for the last few decades has been that a solution to the Palestinian issues will result in improved ties between Israel and the Arab world,” Gold told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “But there is a serious basis for thinking that, actually, the sequence is exactly the opposite — that by improving ties with the Arab states, we set the stage for a future breakthrough with the Palestinians.”
Gold has recently met with several officials from Arab countries, including those with which Israel has no formal ties.
In the days leading up to Friday’s summit, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials held behind-the-scenes contacts with various international figures, to try and ensure that the summit did not end with an effort to impose terms discomfiting for Israel, the Channel 2 report said. The final statement was indeed relatively vague.
Furthermore, Britain, Russia and Germany did not send their foreign ministers to the meeting, and were represented instead by lower-level officials. Kerry did attend, but did not make any dramatic comments to reporters at the event, merely speaking before the ministers met of the “need to know where it’s going.”
The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, who did fly to Paris,used the event to stress that the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative is “still on the table,” and said it was the best way to reach a solution to the decades-long Israeli-Arab conflict.
“The initiative has all the elements needed for a final resolution,” al-Jubeir told reporters, adding that it could not be “diluted” and that he hoped “Israel will wise-up” to the opportunity it constitutes.
Responding to a question in Arabic, al-Jubeir said that the API, first drafted by Riyadh in 2002 and subsequently backed by the Arab League, has not been and would not be amended. Israel has raised objections to elements of the initiative, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War and an agreed resolution to the issue of Palestinian refugees, in return for normalized relations with the Arab world.
“The Arab Peace Initiative does not need changing or adjusting, it is on the table as is,” al-Jubeir said, repeating that the essence of the plan is Israel’s return to the “1967 lines” and the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Netanyahu on Monday partially endorsed the initiative, offering to negotiate with the Arab world the parameters of the plan.
“I take this opportunity to make clear that I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors. The Arab Peace Initiative contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu declared in the Knesset.
“We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in our region since 2002, but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples,” Netanyahu said, making his statement first in Hebrew and then repeating it in English.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said last month that there was a “real opportunity” for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and pledged all Egyptian assistance to realize it.
The Times of Israel
Half-day international meet ends with statement calling for conference by year’s end, assertion that two-state solution ‘is the only way’
A half-day international conference in Paris on kick-starting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process ended Friday with a reaffirmation of a “negotiated two-state solution,” the announcement of a planned summit between the two parties by year’s end, and a warning that “the status quo is not sustainable.”
The communiqué in full:
“The Participants met in Paris on June 3, 2016 to reaffirm their support for a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“They reaffirmed that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. They are alarmed that actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution.
“The Participants underscored that the status quo is not sustainable, and stressed the importance of both sides demonstrating, with policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and create the conditions for fully ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and resolving all permanent status issues through direct negotiations based on resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), and also recalling relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and highlighting the importance of the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative.
“The Participants discussed possible ways in which the international community could help advance the prospects for peace, including by providing meaningful incentives to the parties to make peace. The Participants also highlighted the potential for regional peace and security as envisioned by the Arab Peace Initiative.
“The Participants highlighted the key role of the Quartet and key regional stakeholders. They welcomed the interested countries’ offer to contribute to this effort. They also welcomed France’s offer to coordinate it, and the prospect of convening before the end of the year an international conference.”
The Times of Israel