The creation of a Palestinian state remains the only possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, French President Francois Hollande said at a peace conference he convened to signal international frustration with stalemated negotiations.
“The two-state solution continues to have widespread support, and is still the objective of the international community,” Hollande said. “But the two-state solution is threatened by the continued building of settlements, by the weakness of the peace camp, by mistrust between the two sides, and by the terrorists who have always feared a peace settlement.”
About 75 nations and international organizations gathered Sunday in Paris to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and send the message that much of the world wants to end Israel’s half-century occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where the Palestinians hope to establish a state. The last round of U.S.-led negotiations broke down in 2014.
Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is attending the conference. Netanyahu declined an invitation to come to Paris and be briefed during the meeting, saying the conference was “rigged” against his country and meant to impose conditions on Israel. Abbas has voiced support for the French initiative and is to meet Hollande in coming weeks to discuss the results.
Hollande said the conference isn’t intended to dictate terms of a peace agreement, which he said can only come about from direct talks between the two sides. European foreign ministers will discuss the conclusions at their regular monthly meeting Monday in Brussels, but French officials say there’s no intention to present the conclusions to the United Nations Security Council for a resolution.
The conclave was held a week before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office. While he hasn’t articulated a clear policy, Trump has publicly emphasized his support for Israel, chosen an ambassador who raises money for the West Bank settlement of Beit El, and harshly criticized President Barack Obama’s decision not to veto a Dec. 23 Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, which allowed the measure to pass.
The author of the 1987 best-seller “The Art of the Deal” also has said brokering a Middle East peace agreement would be the “ultimate deal.”
Sunday’s meeting is a follow-up to a June gathering that established working groups on issues such as Palestinian economic development and institution building. Hollande said he knows many people consider Sunday’s meeting to be “naive” and “futile” but said it was “cynical” to allow the status quo to endure.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Gregory Viscusi