Views on This Sunday’s Middle East Peace Conference in Paris


Institute for Middle East Understanding

Release Date

Friday, January 13, 2017


Diana Buttu, Political analyst and former advisor to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators:

"The meeting in Paris can hardly be described as a ‘peace’ conference because it only seeks to reaffirm that the parties are committed to peace without addressing the underlying reasons for the lack of peace, namely Israel's denial of freedom to the Palestinians and its insistence on stealing Palestinian land for illegal Jewish settlements.

"In fact, the insistence of the French and other members of the international community on reviving a two-state solution that died years ago because of Israeli actions only demonstrates their desperation and lack of will to acknowledge and confront the apartheid reality that has been created on the ground, both inside Israel and in the occupied territories.

"It is clear that this summit will not lead to sanctions being imposed on Israel for continuing to violate international law, even in the face of announcements by Israeli cabinet ministers that they will use the opportunity of Trump's presidency to build even more settlements. We are tired of photo opportunities, speeches, and useless summits - the time now is for action."

Zaha Hassan, Human rights attorney and Middle East Fellow at New America. During Palestine’s bid for UN membership and Quartet-sponsored talks between 2010 and 2012, Ms. Hassan was the coordinator and legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team:

"After more than two decades of failed US-sponsored bilateral peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, something different must be tried. Employing a multilateral framework for an end to Israel's military occupation over Arab land that began in 1967 is long overdue and absolutely necessary as a pro-settlement, pro-annexation Trump administration takes shape in the US.

"The success of the new framework will depend, however, on whether international law and precedent will inform the parameters for resolution of the conflict. Those parameters are contained in numerous UN resolutions including in the latest Security Council resolution, UNSC Resolution 2334. If, however, the content of the Paris peace conference will be based on the principles recently enunciated by Secretary of State Kerry, then the seeds for the conference's failure will have been sown.

"Despite his sincere desire to see a just peace, Kerry's principles fall woefully short as they minimize the application of international law in resolving the conflict and maximize Israeli designs on Palestinian land to accommodate Israel's 650,000-strong settlers. In addition, his principles would not provide Palestinians made refugees in 1948 with the choice of whether to exercise their right to return and to restitution. Instead, the refugees and their descendants still living in camps are told that they should forgo their legal rights so that Israel can maintain an ethno-religious state. And though Kerry calls for a general recognition of the collective suffering of Palestinian refugees, he stops short of calling on Israel to acknowledge the role it played in causing that suffering.

"As we've learned from other conflicts, durable peace and reconciliation depend on truth-telling and the application of law and principles. That has to be the foundation of the Paris conference or it will be for naught."

Nadia Hijab, Author, analyst, and Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network:

"The French peace conference is not so much a last-ditch effort to save the two-state solution but an attempt to save the fig leaf that now barely cloaks the international community’s 50-year failure to take the only action that could have salvaged a two-state solution: Making Israel pay a cost for its occupation of Palestinian land and violations of Palestinian rights.

"Instead, ignoring this reality, the conference’s preparatory meeting in Paris in June focused on incentives that could be given to ‘both sides’ – the occupier and the people living under occupation – to advance peace. The weekend’s conference is likely to follow up.

"Although it is hardly worth the expense of bringing so many high-ranking dignitaries together, the conference’s best outcome would be to restate UN Security Council resolution 2334’s firm stand on international law and the illegality of Israel’s settlements and to reaffirm its call on ‘all States’ to ‘distinguish in their dealings’ between Israeli territory and the territories it occupied in 1967.

"And if they actually follow up on resolution 2334, they might finally make Israel give up Palestinian land and work toward a just peace."

Noura Erakat, Human rights attorney, Assistant Professor at George Mason University, editorial board member of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and Co-Editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya and the book, Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures (2013):

"Representatives from nearly half of the world’s states will converge in Paris this weekend to seek a political resolution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. The worst thing that they can do is make this meeting a one-off event.

"Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, the international community has consistently expressed its frustration in words, as it stood by and allowed Israel to incrementally and systematically eviscerate the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. Now that community will be overlooking a one-state reality on the ground where Israel’s civilian, administrative, and military jurisdiction extends across all the land and where it exercises one policy towards its Jewish nationals and completely different policies towards Palestinians in the same territory. This is an apartheid reality.

"This reality is wholly the responsibility of an international community that has failed to uphold international law and human rights norms and even its own policy goals in the region. To reverse these trends, these states should stop equivocating between Israel, which possesses one of the most powerful militaries in the world and is the only nuclear power in the Middle East, and Palestinians, who continue to be stateless and dependent on international aid because of Israel’s denial of their rights. Meaningful change means acknowledging the power disparities that perpetuate and entrench this conflict and redressing them. One way to do so is to impose economic and military sanctions on Israel for its failure to comply with well-established legal and policy norms.

"For its part, the Palestinian leadership should be mobilizing global support for its cause of freedom and sharing a bold vision for Palestinian self determination. They should inspire support for resolving a perpetual state of deprivation. They should be constructing a political program that can leverage this unique political will to increase pressure on Israel if and when these talks collapse. Instead, they seem to be acting like diplomats with an actual state, rather than representatives of a stateless, occupied people who have been denied their most basic of rights and freedoms for five decades and more, which they continue to be."

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