French Peace Plan Seeks Rigid Deadlines for Every Stage of Israeli-Palestinian Talks

Document circulated by France proposes that talks with foreign ministers Friday focus on formulating parameters for a solution to the core issues of a final peace deal.

French President Francois Hollande and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a press conference, Paris, France, October 31, 2012.
French President Francois Hollande and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a press conference, Paris, France, October 31, 2012. Martin Bureau, AFP

The French government wants the foreign ministers meeting in Paris on Friday about an international Israeli-Palestinian peace conference to agree that future negotiations between the two sides will take place within a limited timeframe, according to a document disseminated by the French Foreign Ministry to the countries taking part in the meeting.

According to the document, the French propose that a goal of the discussions starting Friday will be to formulate parameters for a solution to the core issues of a permanent peace agreement. All direct negotiations in the future would be based on these parameters.

The three-page document, which Haaretz has obtained, is a “non-paper” distributed by the French Foreign Ministry to the 28 countries to take part in the meeting. Among those in attendance will be Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The document is a paper of talking points and represents the views of France only. The United States and some of the other states attending the meeting disagree with sections of the paper and would prefer to see a general joint statement at the conclusion of the meeting.

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials will attend the meeting, which is a preparatory gathering ahead of the international peace conference the French want to hold late this year with the two sides’ participation. It is expected that the document will be discussed Wednesday in a meeting of senior diplomats, who will determine the agenda for Friday’s meeting.

The document surveys the background of the French peace initiative and determines that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key issue in the Middle East. The conflict “creates precariousness and insecurity. It fuels radical rhetoric and extremist violence. Moving towards its resolution is as urgent as ever,” according to the document, which adds that “the two-state solution is threatened to the point of being made almost impossible. It should be preserved, and urgently so. Fatalism is not an option. A renewed international engagement is necessary.”

The French document notes that agreement can only be reached in direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, it also states that there are major gaps between the parties and there have been no talks since the failure of the American peace initiative in April 2014. Neither is there any indication, according to the document, that the parties will renew talks on their own, hence the need for an outside process that will lead them back to the negotiating table.

The French government states in the document that the international community can assist in restarting the peace process and calls on various international entities, among them countries in the region that have an interest in the process and “need to put their political weight on this issue.”

The parameters the document sets relate to the core issues of the conflict – borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and water – around which future negotiations will revolve.

“The international community can build on the work developed by the United States in elucidating the core issues and therefore it can help devise solutions, and offer assistance and guarantees for their implementation. It can provide a framework to accompany them to their conclusion,” the document states. It adds that the international community can also “create incentives to show the parties and their populations that they can both concretely benefit from peace. It can try to create an environment in which future talks can take place,” the document states.

The document stresses that the French want all agreements reached by the ministers at Friday’s meeting to be included in a joint announcement that could be released at the end of the meeting. The statement “would reaffirm the validity of the two-state solution” and the support for it, and would present a way forward.

“With regard to limitations on a timeframe for negotiations, the document states: “Time is not a neutral factor, given the steady erosion of the two-state solution. An open-ended approach would be oblivious to the reality on the ground and the constant risks of escalation. Ministers will agree on the principle that a clear timetable will need to be established for the negotiations when they restart, and that some interim review might be necessary to gauge the seriousness of the process.”

The French document notes that in light of the international initiatives which are underway simultaneously – such as the report in preparation by the Quartet and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regional initiative – the approach of the ministers at the meeting should be “consultative, seeking the broadest consensus … rather than a more prescriptive approach.”

The document notes the issues on which agreement is to be sought in Friday’s meeting by stating: “When they meet on June 3, ministers may want to agree (a) on a common assessment, that the two-state solution is the only option, that it is severely threatened and needs to be preserved; (b) on the reaffirmation of the concrete support that they would be ready to bring to facilitate the preservation of the two-state solution and its implementation; (c) on a common view of how to reenergize the peace process, and what a conference should aim at; (d) on a series of taskings and actions to be carried out in the run-up to the conference; (e) on a method and a timetable for the conference.”

The French state that the meeting “might task work in particular” on “short-term recommendations on both sides and regionally to preserve the two-state solution and to prevent an escalation, economic incentives; regional security and cooperation.”