Hosting Macron, Abbas says he hopes France will recognize Palestine

Palestinian Authority president also urges French counterpart to pressure Israel to allow East Jerusalem Palestinians to take part in PA elections

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meeting at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on January 22, 2020. (Wafa)
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meeting at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on January 22, 2020. (Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met French President Emmanuel Macron in Ramallah late Wednesday evening and expressed his hope that France will recognize the State of Palestine, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Macron arrived in Ramallah some five hours later than originally planned after spending the day meeting Israeli officials in Jerusalem, touring the city and taking part in a dinner at the Israeli President’s Residence.

“We wish that the European states — that believe in the two-state solution — and France will recognize the State of Palestine along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas told his French counterpart, according to Wafa.

While several EU countries have recognized Palestine, the majority of its members, including France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, have not.

Israeli officials have long held that recognizing Palestine before a peace deal is finalized would harden Palestinian negotiating positions, making it more difficult to reach an agreement.

Abbas told Macron that he believes recognition of Palestine would be “a true path to saving the French- and European-backed two-state solution and would give hope to our people that achieving peace and stability is possible,” Wafa quoted him as saying.

The two leaders did not address the press after their meeting.

For his part, Macron told Abbas that Paris supports a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians based on the two-state solution, the Wafa report stated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently repeatedly vowed to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and settlements in the West Bank.

The vast majority of the international community supports the two-state solution, but the US has resisted backing it in recent years.

The French president was originally supposed to meet Abbas at 5:00 pm but rescheduled to 10:00 pm after his tour through Jerusalem’s Old City took longer than expected, said an official in Abbas’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In the Old City, Macron visited the Church of Saint Anne, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and Islam’s third holiest place.

He is scheduled to attend an event at the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meeting at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on January 22, 2020. (Credit:Wafa)

Abbas also raised the issue of the long-stalled Palestinian elections, saying the Palestinians would like to see “a French and European role in pressuring the Israeli government to allow our people in Jerusalem participate” in legislative and presidential elections.

The Palestinians have said that Israel has ignored a letter they sent to it, requesting permission to hold elections in East Jerusalem.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be a part of its sovereign territory, but signed agreements between the Jewish state and the Palestine Liberation Organization outline a mechanism for holding PA votes in the eastern half of the city.

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians in East Jerusalem cannot vote in national elections in Israel because Israeli law only permits its citizens to cast ballots. Palestinians in East Jerusalem largely do not hold citizenship, but rather permanent residency.

The PA has not held parliamentary or presidential elections since 2006 and 2005, respectively and Abbas has warned he will not go ahead with new elections unless East Jerusalem Palestinians can vote.

Abbas told the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September that he would call for general elections in the near future.

He has since met several times with the head of the PA Central Elections Committee, Hanna Nasser, to discuss holding elections. Meanwhile, Hamas has said it is prepared to participate in legislative and presidential votes.

In early January, Abbas said European countries were asking him to issue a decree — setting dates for elections — even before Israel states whether it will let them take place in East Jerusalem.

“There are some brothers, especially from the European states, who are urging us to issue the elections decree,” he said at an Orthodox Christmas meal in Bethlehem. “We say that we cannot because if we issue a decree and then are forced to cancel it, that will be a big problem for us.”

Some analysts have argued that Abbas is using the issue of Palestinian votes in East Jerusalem as a pretext to avoid elections.

“The issue of East Jerusalem provides Abbas with a ladder to climb down from the tree. He never wanted elections to take place and he knows that there is no way Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu will allow them to occur in East Jerusalem in the coming months,” Michael Milstein, the head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African studies, said in a phone call in December.


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