Israel and Palestinians squabble over Paris conference

At least 72 countries will attend a conference aiming to lay a framework for a two-state solution.

Weekly cabinet meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu called the upcoming peace talks in Paris a thing of the past [Gali Tibboni/EPA]

A forthcoming conference in Paris aiming to explore ways to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts has placed leaders from the two sides at odds.

At least 72 countries are due to attend the conference on Sunday in the French capital in an effort to lay an international framework for a two-state solution between the Palestinians and Israel.

But while the Palestinian side has welcomed the French initiative, the Israelis rejected it and refused to play any role in the meeting.

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In a speech to diplomats on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande said the conference aims to ensure the support of the international community for the two-state solution as a reference for future direct negotiations.

The Israelis and Palestinians will not take part in the main gathering. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been invited to come to France after the conference to be informed of its conclusions.

Netanyahu has declined the invitation. Abbas is due to meet his French counterpart Francois Hollande on Monday to be briefed on the proceedings, Palestinian officials say.

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The Palestinians, who in recent years have campaigned for the international community to assume a greater role in resolving the conflict, have welcomed the multilateral approach, saying years of negotiations have not ended Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority hopes the Paris conference will deliver a strong international endorsement of the two-state solution, a goal that has been the bedrock of the Middle East policy of the last several US administrations.

It said that the Paris gathering would also be an important opportunity to condemn Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territory as it comes on the heels of a landmark UN security council resolution passed on December 23.

‘Rigged conference’

Netanyahu, on the other hand, dismissed the conference and said that Israel was not bound by the meeting.

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“It’s a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances,” Netanyahu said on Thursday during a meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende in Jerusalem. 

“It’s not going to obligate us. It’s a relic of the past, it’s a last gasp of the past before the future sets in.” 

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In response to Netanyahu’s comments, Nabil Abu-Rudeineh, an Abbas aide, said the international community must “stress to the Israeli government that its rejection of the international resolutions will not bring anything but more instability to the area”. 

Efforts toward a two-state solution have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

According to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, more than half a million Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law. 

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Moreover, the settler movement holds important political power in Israel, and key members of Netanyahu’s coalition push hard for more construction in the West Bank. 

Between 2009 and 2014, settlements were expanded by at least 23 percent under Netanyahu’s leadership. 

The US and others say continued settlement building is steadily eating away at the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In September, US President Barack Obama signed an agreement to give Israel $38bn in military aid despite public spats between Obama and Netanyahu.

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Source: News Agencies