Push­ing for a so­lu­tion

Pales­tini­ans, Is­raelis won’t be at meet­ing of 70 coun­tries this week­end in France

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - WORLD NEWS - Josef Federman

JERUSALEM — In a strong mes­sage to Is­rael and the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, dozens of coun­tries are ex­pected this week­end to re­it­er­ate their op­po­si­tion to Is­raeli set­tle­ments and call for the es­tab­lish­ment of a Pales­tinian state as “the only way” to en­sure peace in the re­gion.

France is host­ing more than 70 coun­tries on Sun­day at a Mideast peace sum­mit, in what will be a fi­nal chance for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to lay out its po­si­tions for the re­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to a draft state­ment, the con­fer­ence will urge Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans “to of­fi­cially re­state their com­mit­ment to the two-state so­lu­tion.” It also will af­firm that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity “will not rec­og­nize” changes to Is­rael’s pre-1967 lines with­out agree­ment by both sides.

The draft says that par­tic­i­pants will af­firm “that a ne­go­ti­ated so­lu­tion with two states, Is­rael and Pales­tine, liv­ing side by side in peace and se­cu­rity, is the only way to achieve en­dur­ing peace.”

Is­rael has set­tled some 600,000 of its cit­i­zens in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries claimed by the Pales­tini­ans for a fu­ture in­de­pen­dent state. Is­rael cap­tured both ar­eas in the 1967 Mideast war.

The sum­mit comes on the heels of a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion last month that con­demned the set­tle­ments as il­le­gal. The res­o­lu­tion passed 14-0 af­ter the U.S. de­clined to use its tra­di­tional veto power and in­stead ab­stained.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has ruled out a re­turn to the 1967 lines, and many mem­bers of his na­tion­al­ist coali­tion op­pose Pales­tinian in­de­pen­dence and sup­port ex­panded set­tle­ments.

Ne­tanyahu has re­jected the UN res­o­lu­tion and ac­cuses the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of con­spir­ing be­hind Is­rael’s back. Is­rael has re­fused to par­tic­i­pate in the French con­fer­ence, which Ne­tanyahu on Thurs­day claimed was “rigged” against his coun­try.

The Pales­tini­ans, who also are not in­vited to this week­end’s con­fer­ence, have wel­comed the French ini­tia­tive. In re­cent years, they have cam­paigned for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to as­sume a greater role in re­solv­ing the con­flict.

Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas is ex­pected to visit France in the com­ing weeks to fol­low up on the con­fer­ence.

Ne­tanyahu re­jects in­ter­na­tional at­tempts to “im­pose” a so­lu­tion and says peace can only be reached through di­rec­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions.

On Thurs­day, French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande said the con­fer­ence aims at en­sur­ing the sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for the two-state so­lu­tion as a ref­er­ence for fu­ture di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“I can­not ac­cept the sta­tus quo, let­ting peo­ple think that the con­flict would re­solve it­self. It is not true. That is why France took the ini­tia­tive of a con­fer­ence on Mid­dle East,” Hol­lande said. “The ob­jec­tive is to reaf­firm the sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to the two-state so­lu­tion and en­sure that this so­lu­tion re­mains the ref­er­ence. But I see that has weak­ened, on the ground and in the minds (of the peo­ple). If we let it de­cay, it would be a risk for the se­cu­rity of Is­rael.”

French diplo­mats, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to talk to the me­dia about the event, said the tim­ing of the con­fer­ence — days be­fore U.S. Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion — is in­ten­tional and meant to present him with a col­lec­tive in­ter­na­tional push for peace once he takes of­fice.

Trump has ap­pointed David Fried­man, a Jewish-amer­i­can lawyer with close ties to the set­tle­ment move­ment, as his am­bas­sador to Is­rael. Trump also has vowed to move the em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step the Pales­tini­ans strongly op­pose.

Jaafar ashtiyeh/ Getty Im­ages

A Pales­tinian pro­tes­tor car­ries car tires dur­ing clashes with Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces, fol­low­ing a demon­stra­tion in the vil­lage of Kfar Qad­dum, in the oc­cu­pied West Bank on Fri­day.

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