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France... Again?
By: Moatasem Hamadeh
October 9, 2018

The visit of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to Paris, and his meeting with French President Macron, coincided with the possibility of launching a French initiative for a new international conference, which will be a beginning to resume the bilateral negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli sides, It was also accompanied by a statement by President Abbas proposing his willingness to return to secret or public negotiations with the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

There is no doubt that Paris has positive positions toward Palestinian issue, which was clearly expressed by the French representative to the UN Security Council, in his speech at the last meeting of the Council, in terms of recognizing East Jerusalem as an occupied territory and as the capital of the Palestinian State, or his position on the issue of settlement in general and the issue of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar in particular, or regarding the continuation of the work of UNRWA and its financing, or his emphasis on the dividing line before June 4th, 1967 as borders of the State of Palestine.

As for the recognition of the Palestinian state, Paris takes a delayed position, to enable it to play a regional political role in the relationship with the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and it keeps the issue of the Palestinian state and its final form to the negotiations of the permanent solution, according to Oslo Accords, signed by the two parties, who are still committed to them, as President Abbas affirmed in his vision before the UN Security Council on February 20, 2018.

In 2016, Hollande, the French President adopted a draft of an international conference to resume the bilateral negotiations, which was clear for the observers that the French initiative was an attempt to fill the void created by Netanyahu's smugness and refusal, to respond to the American suggestions. At the same time, it a was clear that Paris, in its call, didn’t want and could not overstep the US role, so, it linked its movements with the US approval, thus the preparatory meetings for the conference were linked to the agenda of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, as more than once, the preparatory meetings for the conference were rescheduled to suit Kerry's agenda, farther, Paris took into account the Israeli position, and according to Netanyahu's rejection of the French invitation, including attending the conference, even at any level, Paris ruled out the presence of the Palestinian side, thinking that it would satisfy Washington and Tel Aviv, which shows the political extent to which Paris could go in its "exclusivity" in sponsoring the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and in its attempt to replace the American sponsor, in the time of the Obama administration, which saw the establishment of a Palestinian state (alongside the state of Israel within the framework of the "two-state solution"), as an interest for the US national security as it paves the way for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, and integrates Israel into the region.

The French initiative, which is currently being discussed, responds to Trump's launch of his "century deal" initiative and to implement it step by step under the pretext of excluding complex issues from the negotiating agenda, such as settlement, Jerusalem and refugees, in light of a slogan raised by the US administration when says: "The establishment of a Palestinian state is no longer a necessary condition for establishing peace in the region".

Thus, it is necessary to confess that the political situation is more complicated before Paris than it was during the administrations of Obama and Hollande, and that the new American strategy has created facts on the ground that would encourage Netanyahu's government to reject any international initiative that does not respond to the "century deal". Therefore, if Netanyahu had put the sticks in the wheels of the Paris conference during the time of Hollande, and succeeded in disrupting its output to a large extent, so, it is natural, these days, that Netanyahu opposes and rejects any international initiative, French or Russian that does not give him what is offered by the “deal of the century”.

The bets on "international" initiatives adopted by major capitals, as Paris, as an attempt to counter the "deal of the century", will only be failed ones, especially as this deal is moving forward, where 70 percent of which has been properly implemented (as stated by Erekat personally) and will not be stopped by wishes and failed bets.

If we look at the French expected movement, in light of an official Palestinian bet as an entry to a new round of negotiations, we see it as a violation to the decisions of the Central Council (15/1/2018) and the National Council (30/4/2018) and an evasion from their political entitlements, as well as an attempt to manipulate them and gain time in a bet on what may come later (!)

The Central and National Councils have decided very clearly the end of the Oslo Accords, and the withdrawal from their obligations and accordingly, they decided to redefine the relationship with Israel, by withdrawing the recognition of it , stopping the security coordination and disengaging from the Israeli economy, all of which are decisions that are still pending, and the official leadership evades from adhering to them, and even makes them as a scarecrow, to make it a pressing element for the international community, in order to give it some space, which exempts it from the entitlements of the implementation of these decisions.

In addition, the two Councils decided to close the page of the bilateral negotiations, and the National Council affirmed the call for an international conference about the Palestinian issue, organized by the United Nations and sponsored by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and under the resolutions of international legitimacy that recognized the Palestinian people's inalienable national rights.

Thus, any call to an international conference, coming from outside the United Nations, such as the Annapolis and Paris conferences (during the time of Hollande) or, as in the French capital now, is a process of escape from the decisions of the Palestinian legislative institution, so, we do not believe that the definition of an "international conference" can be manipulated, as the "international" conference that the "international quartet" may call for is a thing, while what is called for by the United Nations, its Security Council and its General Assembly is another.

The international conference, whose agenda is the Oslo Accords, is one thing while the international conference, which considers the resolutions of international legitimacy as its reference and governed by a binding mechanism and a time frame, and its objectives are predetermined as the way for the implementation of the resolutions of legitimacy in the self-determination of the Palestinian people, the establishment of an independent state and the right of refugees to return is another deferent thing.

But as for the verbal escalation in confronting the "deal of the century" and the Trump administration policy, without practical steps in the field, and the threat without moving into action, is nothing but an attempt to create a smokescreen, and an exposed game that no longer fools anyone.

Moatasem Hamadeh is a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by Rawan Al-Bash
Revised by Ibrahim Motlaq

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