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France sets date for peace conference in Paris

Dec. 23, 2016 2:48 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 28, 2016 3:42 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- France’s Foreign Minister announced on Thursday that a date has been set for a much anticipated, multilateral Palestinian-Israeli peace conference, scheduled to be held in Paris on Jan. 15, according to reports from Israeli media.

Some 70 countries will reportedly participate in the conference, with a goal to hold a direct meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the sidelines after conclusion of the conference.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault made the announcement during a visit to the Lebanese capital Beirut, saying that he hoped the meeting would “relaunch” the peace process and “re-affirm the necessity of having two states,” according to Time of Israel.

Ayrault said that despite repeated rejections by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the French initiative, that Netanyahu would be invited to Paris anyway.

Netanyahu has staunchly objected to the concept of a multilateral peace conference that excludes Israeli and Palestinian leadership, and has expressed his preference for direct, bilateral talks instead. The Palestinian Authority, however, has expressed support for the French initiative, and in April shelved the submission of a new anti-settlement resolution to the UN out of fear that doing so could thwart progress of new French proposals.

A preliminary summit that set the framework for the upcoming conference was held in June, attended by the representatives of 30 countries.

The most recent spate of negotiations led by the US collapsed in April 2014, as all past efforts towards peace negotiations have also failed to end the decades-long Israeli military occupation or bring Palestinians closer to an independent contiguous state.

Israel claimed the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward, while Palestinians pointed to Israel's ongoing settlement building and the government's refusal to release veteran prisoners.

While the goal of the upcoming summit would be to revive the peace process on the basis of achieving a two-state solution, Palestinians say the prospect of such a reality has become ever ever dimmer, amid a surge in illegal Israeli settlement construction that has now obtained the stamp of approval of US President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump also pledged during his campaign to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would indicate the US’s acceptance of “Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem,” according to Palestinian officials, and mark the end of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Trump was reportedly also instrumental in convincing Egypt to postpone holding a vote an anti-settlement resolution at the UN Security Council Thursday evening, after Israeli officials recruited him to assist applying diplomatic pressure to block the vote.

While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
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