Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday expressed the hope that the upcoming Middle East conference in France will set in place a mechanism to end Israel’s settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Abbas’s public remarks were his first since Friday’s United Nations Security Council resolution, which condemned Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law. Abbas told a meeting of his Fatah party late Monday that the resolution “paves the way for the international peace conference” scheduled to take place in Paris on January 15.
A day after the vote, Abbas hailed the UN resolution as setting “the legal basics for a solution,” as it “reiterated that Israeli settlement is illegal.”
“The world said its word that settlement in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, is illegal,” Abbas said Saturday night, while calling on Israel “to sit together at the negotiation table to discuss all the outstanding issues between us and resolve them with good intentions…we are neighbors on this holy land and we want peace.”
Israel has refused to attend the January 15 gathering, with officials insisting that only bilateral negotiations can lead to a peace agreement. The Palestinians support the French initiative, which will see representatives of some two dozen countries convening in a bid to jump-start moribund peace efforts.
Channel 10 television said Sunday that Netanyahu fears the Middle East Quartet — the US, UN, Russia and EU — will coordinate positions at the Paris summit, and then return to the Security Council in the very last days of Barack Obama’s presidency to cement these new parameters on Mideast peacemaking.
On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called the planned peace conference a “tribunal against the State of Israel.” He branded it “a convention whose sole aim is to harm the security of the State of Israel and its good name.”
Liberman also likened the conference to the Dreyfus Affair, saying that “we are talking about the modern version of the Dreyfus trial, except that this time instead of one Jew in the defendant’s chair, the whole nation of Israel is there.”
The 1894 trial — in which Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army, was wrongfully accused of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment before being exonerated when the real culprit was revealed — is seen as a seminal anti-Semitic event of modern times.
Theodor Herzl is said to have been spurred into writing his great treatise on Zionism, “The Jewish State,” after covering Dreyfus’s trial as a newspaper correspondent and hearing the crowd scream out “Death to the Jews!”
France rejected Liberman’s comments on Monday, according to Israel Radio. Paris said the conference was organized to “re-affirm the international community’s commitment to two states, living side-by-side in safety and security and to re-emphasize how crucial the [two-state] solution is,” officials in the French Foreign Ministry said.
Gavin Rabinowitz and AFP contributed to this report.