France to push 18-month timetable for Mideast peace
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France to push 18-month timetable for Mideast peace

Ahead of submitting draft UN resolution on negotiations, Paris reportedly threatens to recognize Palestine should talks fail

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010 (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010 (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

France’s upcoming bid for a renewed Middle East peace push at the UN sets a timetable of 18 months for a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and threatens French recognition of Palestine should negotiations fail, newspaper Le Figaro reported Wednesday.

The report states that the resolution being drafted by Paris, and which is expected to be brought before the UN Security Council later this summer, calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with certain land swaps agreed upon by the parties, and Jerusalem serving as the capital of both nations.

The document being formulated by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says the sovereignty of the demilitarized Palestinian state must be guaranteed, with a gradual Israeli pullout from Palestinian territory. It also says Israel’s security concerns must be addressed, and any Palestinian arms-buildup or terrorist activity prevented.

The resolution also states that a “just, balanced and realistic solution” to the issue of Palestinian refugees must be found, based chiefly on a mechanism of compensation to those displaced. It also reportedly references Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a stipulation that has so far been rejected by Palestinian leadership.

The UN Security Council voting on a resolution on Palestinian statehood on December 30, 2014. The resolution was voted down. (photo credit: UN/Evan Schneider)
The UN Security Council voting on a resolution on Palestinian statehood on December 30, 2014. The resolution was voted down. (photo credit: UN/Evan Schneider)

Le Figaro reported that the relatively short 18-month timetable was a result both of French concern over increasing instability in the region, as well as Paris’s desire to see results before President Francois Hollande leaves office in 2017.

The paper also reported that France is currently holding consultations over the document with members of the Arab Leage as well as certain Security Council members.

The resolution is not expected to be brought before the council before July, so as not to interfere with international efforts to reach a final agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program — the deadline for which has been set at June 30.

While the substance of the French draft may not differ much from past failed efforts to revive Mideast peace talks, France is hoping this time to avoid a US veto at the UN because of increasing American frustration with Netanyahu.

French Foreign Affairs minister Laurent Fabius at the French National Assembly in Paris, November 28, 2014 (Photo credit: Patrick Kovarick/AFP)
French Foreign Affairs minister Laurent Fabius at the French National Assembly in Paris, November 28, 2014 (Photo credit: Patrick Kovarick/AFP)

After Netanyahu’s election win and tough campaign comments against Palestinian statehood, the White House said it would reevaluate the approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The weight of a Security Council resolution, which is legally binding, would add to international pressure on Israel.

Last year, the council rejected a Palestinian resolution demanding an end to Israeli occupation within three years. The US opposed that draft, saying Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through negotiations, but it didn’t have to use its veto because the resolution didn’t get the minimum nine votes needed for approval.

In March the UN’s outgoing top Mideast envoy, Robert Serry, challenged the Security Council to lead the way on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it should present a framework for talks that “may be the only way to preserve the goal of a two-state solution.”

Netanyahu told the European Union’s top diplomat Wednesday that he was committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, attempting to undo diplomatic damage wreaked by statements seemingly in opposition to a Palestinian state during March electioneering.

Speaking during a joint press conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Netanyahu said he would like to end the conflict with the Palestinians once and for all. He added, however, that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“I don’t support a one state solution – I don’t believe that’s a solution at all,” the prime minister said in comments ahead of their private meeting. “I support the vision of two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and I look forward to discussing with you how we can advance that vision forth in a practical, secure and responsible way. I know that you share our goal and we see you as a friend who can help advance it.”

Mogherini responded that Europe supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“I believe your recommitment tonight to work on peace and security,” she said.

Netanyahu’s comments came a day after he stated that Israel would pursue a diplomatic “settlement” with the Palestinians while working with regional states to attain such a goal.

The prime minister was widely criticized by opponents at home and internationally after telling a reporter on March 16 — the day before Israelis went to the polls — that he would not preside over the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu later walked back the remarks, saying that he did support a “sustainable, peaceful two-state solution,” but the White House indicated it would only believe him if his words were backed up by actions.

AP contributed to this report.

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