Israel/Palestine/France politics: Quick View – Conference affirms focus on two-state solution

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Israel, France, Palestine


On January 15th France hosted an international Middle East Peace Conference in Paris.


The conference, which featured representatives from 70 countries, including 36 foreign ministers, but not Palestine or Israel, was the latest stage in French efforts to restart the long-stalled peace process. The French initiative was launched in early 2016 and involved an earlier conference in June, which was supposed to pave the way for a summit involving the two parties. However, Israel has refused to participate, leading to the conference being delayed and then limited once again to external actors. The French effort has taken on renewed importance in the last few months as the incoming US president, Donald Trump, has indicated through his comments and appointments that he is likely to pursue policies which are supportive of the hardline Israeli settler movement and inimical to a two-state solution. A two-state solution has been the formal stated goal of Palestine, Israel and the international community since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The conference's communiqué, and statements by key participants, urged both sides to reaffirm support for a two-state solution. Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, welcomed it and said that it was time to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law.

There had been hopes that the conference would be rapidly followed by a UN Security Council resolution able to put pressure on Israel, before Mr Trump's inauguration on January 20th. However, the outgoing US secretary of state, John Kerry, made it clear that the US would not permit this to go ahead, despite its groundbreaking abstention on UN Resolution 2334 on Jewish settlements in December. Mr Kerry also lobbied to shape aspects of the communiqué in Israel's interests, including references to Palestinian violence.

The force of the conference was further weakened by the UK, the former colonial power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council member, which only attended the conference at observer status and did not sign the communiqué, apparently in an effort to curry favour with Mr Trump. Australia signed the communiqué but its foreign minister, Julie Bishop, who was not present, later distanced her country from it.

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