Israel: Paris Summit a ‘Missed Opportunity’

Israel on Friday blasted an international summit in Paris aimed at reviving the stalled Middle East peace process as a “missed opportunity.” It said international leaders’ willingness to yield to the demands of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas only served to make his position more obdurate and extreme.

“The conference in Paris was a missed opportunity,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Friday, shortly after the half-day summit of officials from 28 countries ended with a call for an international peace conference by the end of the year and a reaffirmation of the two-state solution as the sole means to resolve the conflict.

“Instead of urging Abu Mazen [Abbas] to respond to calls from the Israeli prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] to start direct negotiations immediately and without preconditions, the international community responded to Abu Mazen’s demands and allowed him to keep avoiding direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions. It will go down in history that the conference in Paris simply resulted in hardened Palestinian positions and distances peace,” the ministry said.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited to the summit.

The Palestinian leadership, by contrast, hailed the summit as a “significant step” on the path to peace. “The Paris meeting is a very significant step and its message is clear: If Israel is allowed to continue its colonization and apartheid policies in occupied Palestine, the future will be for more extremism and bloodshed rather than for coexistence and peace,” PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat said in a statement. “We negotiated bilaterally with Israel, the occupying power, for over two decades, but they continue to violate all the agreements that we had signed. In fact the number of illegal Israeli settlers in Occupied Palestine has grown from nearly 200,000 to over 600,000 during the past 20 years of bilateral talks.”

Israel consistently opposed the Paris summit, and has called instead for direct talks between Netanyahu and Abbas.

Israel’s Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said what was happening in Paris was “surreal,” since it was entirely unrealistic to believe that anything said or done there could change things for the better on the ground. The only way to solve the conflict was via direct talks, but Abbas “has been boycotting Israel for the past seven years,” said Erdan Friday, and has decided to spend “the remainder of his days trying to damage Israel internationally.”

The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, said Thursday that France’s push to restart talks, which began with the Friday meeting in the French capital, was doomed to failure.

“The only way to get a stable regional arrangement that will allow us to create real peace in the Middle East is if the parties of the region come to understandings between them,” Gold said.

“We believe the Arab states would give backing to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” he added. “Therefore we prefer a Middle Eastern process and not a process that somebody is trying to create in Paris.”

Gold compared the French peace push to a 1916 British-French effort to carve up the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The effort by British diplomat Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot of France “was at the apex of the era of colonialism in our area,” Gold said. “Their effort failed as we see today in the deserts of Iraq and Syria.”