24/01/2017

Perspective on the Paris Peace Conference

By Chloé de Radzitzky

The Paris Middle East peace conference was held on January 15th. This event is a new stage in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while the peace process between Israel and Palestine has been frozen since 2014[1]. More than seventy countries met to affirm their commitment to the two-state solution. This conference was organized by the French president François Hollande. It aimed at keeping alive the two-state solution, the solution of reference for the international community. It is however necessary to question the relevance of this solution as well as about the utility of the conference. Indeed, many are sceptical as for the relevance of the conference of Paris as well as critic of the two-state solution. Indeed, this solution lays at the basis of all peace initiatives between the Israelis and the Palestinians, initiatives which never bring the peace.

The two-state solution seems to be simple at first sight. This one wants the creation of a Palestinian State alongside to an Israeli State. There would therefore be two countries for two different peoples[2]. To do it, the international community asks for the return the pre-1967 borders to divide the territory. Hence, after a joint attack of Egypt and Jordan on Israel, they took control over the West Bank and Gaza as retaliation. The activity of these territories was considered illegal by the UN resolution 242. Nevertheless, after several attempts to solve of the conflict, the peace perspectives seem to be increasingly unattainable.

After several years, marked by the Arab-Israeli conflicts, the PLO which used to be for the total and complete liberation of Palestine proposed the implementation of a two-state solution in 1988[3]. Its leaders were ready to demilitarize themselves and to stop acts of violence against Israel in exchange for the recovery of the territories of Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem Est. The Oslo agreements were a turning point regarding to relations between both sides. The agreements implied the mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO as well as the transfer of the control of Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinian Authorities for a transitional period of 5 years. During that transitional period, the definitive peace agreement would be negotiated. The problem of the Oslo agreements is that they did not approach the contentious questions, such as the Palestinian creation of a State, the end of settlements, water-related problems as well as questions concerning the territories of the West Bank and Jerusalem[4].

The incapacity[5] or the lack of will of Yasser Arafat[6] to limit terrorist attacks against the Israelis, combined with the election of Benyamin Netanyahu in 1996 damaged the peace process. The last phases of the Oslo agreements planned to restore 75 % from the West Bank and the total of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authorities. However, they were abandoned whereas the expansion of colonies continued. Ehud Barak won the elections in 1999. He went farther no than any Israeli president as regards the concessions made for the Palestinians during the Camp David Summit in 2000. If these seemed to correspond to the expectations expressed by the PLO at the beginning of Oslo Accords, their concrete applications would have been a brake in the creation of an independent Palestinian State[7]. The territory was the to be divide so that the Palestinians have little, control over the water resources[8].For what concerns Jerusalem, Barak granted to the Palestinians a part of the territory. This one was completely disconnected from the Palestinian villages; and Israel kept parts on whom the Palestinian populations were still majority. This transfer would have deteriorated the refugee problem[9]. The Israelis also refused to recognize their responsibility in the Nakba[10]. The events developed above represent the general framework in which the two-state solution has been negotiated until now. The peace Conference organized in Paris represents the first attempt to bring back the stakeholders to the negotiating table since the Gaza War in 2014[11]. At the end of the conference, participants repeated their support for the two-state solution. They denounced the expansion of the settlements as well as the Palestinian violence as being brakes to the establishment of a lasting peace[12]. Nevertheless, the process was depicted by newspapers as unlikely to bring peace. The reasons of this skepticism are multiple. First of all, the absence of a strong and unified Palestinian leadership makes possibility of dialogue unlikely. Indeed the Hamas, in power in Gaza, wishes to establish a Palestinian State according to the borders established before 1948 (and not those of 1967). The creation of this group was moreover favored by Israel during the 1980s[13]. Actually, the government appeared to act in favor to anyone being able to compete with the PLO, which used to be considered as a terrorist organization. The Hamas presently qualified the conference « as absurd”[14] while Fatah and PLO are delighted at it[15].

 

The division between the Hamas and the Fatah is not the only problem faced by the Palestinian leadership. The growing gap between the Palestinian population and Mahmoud Abbas comes also to question its legitimacy of this one as representative. Furthermore, the number of disillusioned young committing acts of violence towards Israel without having a political clear program has also increased[16].

Perspectives are not better on the Israeli side. Benyamin Netanyahu refused to attend the Paris Conference. He considers the French initiative as being pointless and counterproductive. He asserts that it encourages the Palestinians to internationalize the conflict instead of favoring direct negotiations[17]. Furthermore, if the president seems to keep rhetoric favorable to the establishment of a two-state solution, his is acting the opposite. For example, Israel recently proposed a law legalizing settlements; which did not stop extending during the last months[18]. He is afraid that the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from Palestinian does favor the emergence of groups like Hamas[19].

Finally, if the rate of participation at the conference was extremely high, the situation at the level of the international community does not seem to be able to offer better perspectives for what regards the peace process. The balance of power between the Israelis and the Palestinians has always been unbalanced, and so since the fall of the USSR. The Russians do not want to torpedo the good relations they maintain with Israel, and the Obama administration increased from twenty percent the assistance to Israelis, even though he denounced the expansion of the settlements. The indifference of the Arab countries concerning the Palestinian question does not stop growing, and the new United Nations Secretary General does not want to antagonize Israel right from the beginning of his mandate. Meanwhile, Europe does nothing[20]. The arrival of the administration Trump does predict no good for the peace process while he has already demonstrated a pro-Israeli trend during months preceding the grip of his presidential functions.

In conclusion the road is still long if the stakeholders in the negotiations want to manage to set up a two-state solution, if we assume that it is not already too late.

Sources

[1] Le Monde, 2017, « Israël et Palestine : la conférence de Paris appelle à une solution à deux Etats et à la négociation », 16 décembre. Consulté le 23/01/2017 sur http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2017/01/15/israel-et-palestine-la-conference-de-paris-appelle-a-une-solution-a-deux-etats-et-a-la-negociation_5063087_3218.html

[2]Fisher,M., 2016, “The Two-State Solution: What It Is and Why It Hasn’t Happened”,  The New York Time, 27 Décembre. Consulté le 23/01/2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/world/middleeast/israel-palestinians-two-state-solution.html

[3] Slater, J 2001, ‘What went wrong? The collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process’, Political Science Quarterly, 2, p. 171, RAMBI, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017.

[4] Cohen-Almagor, R 2012, ‘The failed Palestinian–Israeli peace process 1993–2011: an Israeli perspective’, Israel Affairs, 18, 4, pp. 563-576, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017.

[5] Slater, J 2001, ‘What went wrong? The collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process’, Political Science Quarterly, 2, p. 171, RAMBI, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017.

[6] Cohen-Almagor, R 2012, ‘The failed Palestinian–Israeli peace process 1993–2011: an Israeli perspective’, Israel Affairs, 18, 4, pp. 563-576, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017

[7] Slater, J 2001, ‘What went wrong? The collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process’, Political Science Quarterly, 2, p. 171, RAMBI, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017.

[8] Hanieh, A 2001, ‘The Camp David papers’, Journal Of Palestine Studies, 2, p. 75, RAMBI, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017.

[9] Slater, J 2001, ‘What went wrong? The collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process’, Political Science Quarterly, 2, p. 171, RAMBI, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017.

[10] Hanieh, A 2001, ‘The Camp David papers’, Journal Of Palestine Studies, 2, p. 75, RAMBI, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 January 2017.

[11] Le Monde, 2017, « Israël et Palestine : la conférence de Paris appelle à une solution à deux Etats et à la négociation », 16 décembre. Consulté le 23/01/2017 sur http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2017/01/15/israel-et-palestine-la-conference-de-paris-appelle-a-une-solution-a-deux-etats-et-a-la-negociation_5063087_3218.html

[12]Knell, Y., 2016, “Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay”, BBC, 1/06/2017. Consulté le 23/01/17 sur http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36682062

[13]Tharoor, I., 2014, « How Israel helped create Hamas”, The Wallstreet journal,30 juillet. Consulté le 23/01/2017 sur  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/07/30/how-israel-helped-create-hamas/?utm_term=.32dad9957c23

[14] RTBF, 2017, « Conflit israélo-palestinien: le Hamas qualifie la conférence de Paris « d’absurde » », 16/01/17. Consulté le 23/01/17 sur https://www.rtbf.be/info/dossier/perspectives-dans-le-conflit-israelo-palestinien/detail_conflit-israelo-palestinien-le-hamas-qualifie-la-conference-de-paris-d-absurde?id=9504529

[15]Le Monde, 2017, « Israël et Palestine : la conférence de Paris appelle à une solution à deux Etats et à la négociation », 16 décembre. Consulté le 23/01/2017 sur http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2017/01/15/israel-et-palestine-la-conference-de-paris-appelle-a-une-solution-a-deux-etats-et-a-la-negociation_5063087_3218.html

[16] International Crisis Group, 2016, “Israel/Palestine: Parameters for a Two-State Settlement”, Middle East Report N°172. Consulté le 24/01/17 sur   https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/israelpalestine/israel-palestine-parameters-two-state-settlement

[17] Times of Israël, 2017, « Réactions d’Israël et des Palestiniens suite à la conférence de paix », 15 janvier. Consulté le 23/01/2017 sur http://fr.timesofisrael.com/reaction-disrael-suite-au-communique-final-de-la-conference-de-paix/

[18] Middle East Eye, 2016,« Israël veut légaliser les colonies sauvages en Cisjordanie, limiter le volume des appels à la prière »,  14 novembre. Consulté le 23/01/17 sur http://www.middleeasteye.net/fr/reportages/isra-l-veut-l-galiser-les-colonies-sauvages-en-cisjordanie-limiter-le-volume-des-appels

[19] Knell, Y., 2017, “Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay”, BBC, 1/06/2017. Consulté le 23/01/17 sur http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36682062

[20] http://www.iris-france.org/87374-conflit-israelo-palestinien-conference-de-paris-une-conference-pour-rien/