5 questions on paris mideast peace conference
Last Updated : GMT 07:25:12
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Last Updated : GMT 07:25:12
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5 questions on Paris Mideast peace conference

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Arab Today, arab today 5 questions on Paris Mideast peace conference

Palestinian protesters
Occupied Jerusalem - ArabToday

Representatives from around 70 nations are to meet in Paris on Sunday to try to chart a course toward restarting moribund Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In a strong message to Israel and the incoming Trump administration, dozens of countries are expected to reiterate their opposition to Israeli colonies and call for the establishment of a Palestinian state as “the only way” to ensure peace in the region.

France is hosting more than 70 countries on Sunday at a Mideast peace summit, in what will be a final chance for the Obama administration to lay out its positions for the region.

According to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution.”

It also will affirm that the international community “will not recognise” changes to Israel’s pre-1967 lines without agreement by both sides.

The draft says that participants will affirm “that a negotiated solution with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, is the only way to achieve enduring peace.”

Here is a brief explanation of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

What is the conflict?

After the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1916, Palestinians emerged from a four-century-long Turkish occupation only to be reoccupied by Britain.

Under the Sykes-Picot agreement, Britain and France divided the Levant territory.

In 1920, a British Civil Administration was established in anticipation of the granting of a formal League of Nations Mandate to the UK, which was approved in July 1922 and came into effect in September 1923.

Under the British occupation, Zionists were putting massive pressure on the British Government to facilitate the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

On November 2, 1917, the British responded to the Zionist demands through what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which recognised the Zionist movement’s claim to a national home in Palestine and committed Britain to facilitating its realisation.

The Balfour Declaration, the first significant declaration of a world power in favour of a Jewish national home in Palestine was issued by the British foreign secretary (1916-1919) Arthur James Balfour in a letter to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community.

Favouring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews, the Balfour Declaration is greatly regarded as a seminal moment in the history of Zionism, Palestine and the entire Middle East.

It changed history and directly led to the creation of the state of Israel to which all Jews could migrate.

Between 1937 and 1947, Jews who migrated to Palestine, organised into militia groups (Ezel) which carried out attacks against British forces stationed there.

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partition of Palestine into a Palestinian and a Jewish state. Arab states rejected the move.

The United Nations approved the state of Israel in 1948, and as a result 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. The Palestinians mourn the loss of their homeland on May 15 each year. It is what they refer to as Al Nakba or The Catastrophe.

Later, in 1967, Israel illegally seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem during the Six Day War with neighbouring countries.

It later annexed east Jerusalem, where key Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites are located, and continues to occupy the West Bank.

The Oslo accords of the 1990s laid out what is commonly referred to as the peace process.

Efforts at an agreement have been centred on a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital. It would see Israel withdraw from territory it occupied, though likely with land swaps.

It is also meant to resolve longstanding issues such as the status of Jerusalem - one of the most difficult in the conflict - and the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

But more than two decades after the Oslo accords, the Israeli occupation remains and two Palestinian intifadas (uprisings) have erupted, in addition to sporadic violence that continues today.

There have been growing warnings that the chances of a two-state solution are slipping away. The Paris conference’s aim is to put it back on track.

Why are negotiations stalled?

 

Both the Israelis and Palestinians say they are willing to talk, but haven’t done so face-to-face since 2014.

The Palestinians say years of negotiations have not ended the occupation and have pursued an international approach.

They want a stop to Israeli colony building before further talks, among other demands.

Israel wants face-to-face talks and calls on the Palestinians to recognise the country as a Jewish state.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation has long recognised Israel, but it believes doing so as a Jewish state would preempt negotiations on refugees’ right of return.

They believe Israel’s insistence on recognising Israel as a Jewish state is simply a stalling tactic to grab more Palestinian land and derail negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads what is seen as the most right-wing government in the country’s history, with members of his cabinet opposed to any Palestinian state.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has grown unpopular, with a recent poll showing some 64 per cent of Palestinians want the 81-year-old to resign.

He also doesn’t control the Gaza Strip, another part of the Palestinian territories and which is run by Hamas, the Islamist movement that refuses to recognise Israel.

 

What role do colonies and violence play?

 

Jewish colonies inside the occupied West Bank, considered illegal under international law.

There are now around 600,000 Israelis living in West Bank and east Jerusalem colonies, considered a major obstacle to peace since they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Many warn that colony expansion is eating away at any chance of a two-state solution.

A UN Security Council resolution passed on December 23 called for a halt to colonies after the United States did not use its veto - the first such successful resolution since 1979.

Israel claims the conference rewards Palestinian violence.

A wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks, mainly by lone-wolf assailants, erupted in October 2015, as Jewish raids on Al Haram Al Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam, intensified.

Under a status quo agreement, Jews may visit Al Haram Al Sharif, but may not perform religious rituals there.

Radical Jewish groups have been campaigning to encourage more illegal raids on the Muslim holy site. Palestinians say that the Jewish pilgrims have the full backing of the Israeli government and point to the fact that Jewish groups raiding the mosque’s premises have the full protection of Israeli occupation soldiers.

Palestinians blame the Israeli regime over the escalation of violence and tensions, accusing them of seeking to change the status quo agreement.

Israel has already effectively changed the status quo regarding Al Buraq Wall and the surrounding plaza, allowing only Jews to access it for prayer. Muslims believe this is where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) tied the Buraq (an animal with wings) before he ascended to heaven).

These Jewish groups hope that by continuing illegal raids on the holy site, it will become an accepted reality for Jews to pray there and ultimately ban Muslms altogether.

Palestinian defenders of the Al Aqsa Mosque known as Al Murabiteen, who have been effective at discouraging Jewish raids on Al Haram Al Sharif, have been completely deterred from entering the holy Muslim site.

Palestinians from the 1948 areas and residents of occupied Jerusalem have been on the front lines of defending the holy site. But Israel has taken draconian measures to curb their presence there, including denying them medical insurance or even revoking their identity cards.

More and more frustrated Palestinians have carried out lone wolf attacks on Israelis. On January 8, a Palestinian rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four of them.

 

What to expect from the conference?

 

The conference will be held without the Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel has rejected the meeting, with Netanyahu saying he will refuse international “diktats,” but the Palestinians have welcomed it.

Abbas spoke by telephone with French President Francois Hollande ahead of the meeting and will visit Paris “in the coming weeks” for bilateral talks, Hollande’s office said Thursday.

For the Palestinians, the mere fact that the conference is being held is a victory.

But they also want concrete results, such as a follow-up mechanism and a timeframe to end the occupation.

 

What about Trump?

 

The inauguration of Donald Trump as US president on January 20 will likely bring far more favourable Washington policy toward Israel.

Trump condemned the UN resolution against settlements and has nominated David Friedman, a supporter of settlement expansion, as his Israeli ambassador.

On Tuesday, a senior Palestinian official said when it comes to Trump “all indications are negative”.

Israel fears the Paris conference will produce measures that will be taken to the UN Security Council before Trump becomes president.

source: GULF NEWS

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