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Middle East: A French Initiative and European support for a new maze of negotiations

June 23, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Peace negotiations are on the table in the Middle East once again, after Paris successfully launched its initiative to revive the process of political settlement. The initiative has gained the support of the foreign ministers of European Union’s who are in support of holding an international peace conference. They also announced that, in turn, they are prepared to provide economic, political and security incentives to revive the peace process. But would the Israeli occupation regime be truly driven to conclude a final political settlement in light of these “incentives”? New European offers are incapable of luring Israeli decision makers, who are currently in receipt of sufficient incentives that encourage them to maintain the status quo. The Israeli side enjoys, for instance, steady diplomatic support from Europe and the West within the international community, as demonstrated recently by enabling their appointment for the chairmanship of the legal questions committee in the United Nations. This nomination, pushed by Western states for a state that has perfected the profession of violating international law, has allowed a chronic occupation regime to assume a prominent place and enjoy all its symbolic messages and diplomatic gains.

One ought to wonder, however, what those political, economic and security incentives, specified in the statement of the European foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 20 June in support of the French Initiative and the idea of holding an international peace conference, precisely mean?

It is clear that the security incentives would be that of the Israelis, as usual, and are intended to meet the aspirations of any future Israeli settlement in the area of security. This means that a “State of Palestine”, which may see the light, would be restricted by long-lasting commitments that serve Israel’s security policies.

At such point, of course, there would be no discussion of fully independent Palestinian security authorities able to protect their people from any Israeli encroachments, such as those constantly taking place on the ground in the West Bank, or the horrific aggressions launched, from time to time, against the population of the Gaza Strip. The fact of the matter is that the intended “security” in the language of a political settlement refers to the security of Israelis, not the Palestinians.

Still, there are no real incentives in this respect as the Israeli leadership has asserted its satisfaction with the security coordination currently in force with the Palestinian Authority, and it does not appear to need further stimuli in this regard. It is abundantly clear that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has personally, and repeatedly, professed his commitment to the so-called “security coordination” with the relevant Israeli security services, while the latter continues to confess its gratitude for the intelligence they receive from the other side operating under a Palestinian flag. What more security incentives could the Europeans offer the occupation regime when it is in receipt of such generous services?

As for political and economic incentives, some of those would be, in fact, dedicated to co-opt the Palestinian side and motivate them to negotiate and conclude an agreement. It is the right of the Palestinians in any case to understand, in their own way, that these are prices paid for the relinquishment of their rights in the conclusion of a lousy deal.

We may see further rounds of applause in the coming months if the train of negotiations sets off again, with scenes of warm handshakes and smiles full of anticipation and delight. All of that, however, would be an approximate restoration of what took place during a quarter of a century of a negotiations marathon since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991. The result is what everyone sees on the ground today: absolute Israeli control.

Europe must confront itself with the truth, which is that the incentives package that has been waved would fail to adapt the Israeli decision controlled today by the stubborn Netanyahu and his reckless partner, Lieberman, with a chorus of hard-line ministers and generals of war. With the absence of a European and Western political will to pressure the occupation regime, no one can expect any shift in the Israeli position.

On the other had, such talk about incentives is liable to push the Palestinians back into laying their hands on their hearts in fear that this will be a price for additional concessions asked of a weak political leadership. This is a legitimate concern, in any case, especially when European communications fail to address the concept of Palestinian sovereignty and ignore the absence of justice and the rights of the Palestinian people in those negotiations.

One must admit that, at the moment, the Israeli side receives sufficient economic, political and security incentives to encourage them to continue their occupation and settlement strategy and apartheid. Furthermore, if Europe and the United States are not willing to exert real pressure on a regime that continues its occupation and illegal settlement expansion, in addition to the gross violations of Palestinian rights on the ground, then the French Initiative, supported by Europe and the international community, will pass with wind after a maze of negotiations punctuated by a lot of smiles and applause.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.