EU to back French peace initiative

The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council is expected to adopt a resolution that will back the French peace initiative on Monday, Haaretz reported Saturday night.

The resolution will call for an international peace conference including Israeli and Palestinian participation before the end of the year, according to the newspaper.

On June 3, France hosted a summit of foreign ministers in Paris who discussed ways in which the international community could "help advance the prospects for peace, including by providing meaningful incentives to the parties to make peace," according to a joint statement.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials said Saturday night that Israel failed to block the move by the panel of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers, which will add significant weight to the French proposal. Israel can now only try to soften the wording of the resolution, they said, according to Haaretz.

Israel has rejected the French initiative, with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said the bid was doomed to failure, like a 1916 colonial effort to carve up the Middle East.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also stated Israel’s objection to the initiative, telling French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that it would be better if France and its partners would encourage Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas to accept Netanyahu’s invitation to sit down for direct negotiations.

According to the Haaretz report, Israeli officials had not taken the French plan seriously, but after the Paris conference, Jerusalem realized that the proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was gaining momentum.

France has continued to advance the initiative, which has gained wider international support. This includes follow-up measures such as forming international working teams for issues including confidence-building gestures, security arrangements and economic incentives.

Paris is pressing EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European foreign ministers to endorse the resolution on Monday, which would fully harness the entire EU to its plan, according to the report.

A senior Foreign Ministry figure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the draft resolution includes nearly all the items on France’s “wish list.”

Last week the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and officials in Israel’s diplomatic missions to Europe and to EU institutions lobbied against the resolution. The official said Israel’s ambassadors conveyed its flat objection to the French initiative and to any follow up move to advance it.

The official told Haaretz the Foreign Ministry received reports that most European capitals politely rejected the Israeli arguments.

“They all agree with us in principle that direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would be preferable, but in practical terms they didn’t really pay attention to our objections and in many states they simply don’t understand our position,” he said.

“Also, increasingly more states want to strengthen the French initiative even further, mainly because there’s no other initiative on the table to break the standstill in the peace process,” he added.

The Foreign Ministry has now shifted its focus to trying to soften the resolution’s wording, the report said. Israeli diplomats are focusing mainly on removing a clause linking the French initiative to the EU’s proposal of December 2013 to upgrade Israel’s status to that of a special privileged partner in exchange for reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Back in January when the French initiative was announced, Paris had threatened to unilaterally recognize the "state of Palestine" if it failed.

Since then, however, Ayrault backtracked on the threat, saying France would not “automatically” recognize a Palestinian state if its initiative fails.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/213795

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