French president Francois Hollande (Ian Langsdon, Pool via AP) (Ian Langsdon, Pool via AP)
French president Francois Hollande

Anti-Israel elements are gathering in Paris in another attempt to ambush Israel and pressure it into concessions to the Palestinians, supposedly in a move towards peace. 

More than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris Sunday to participate in a Mideast conference that will attempt to pressure Israel into concessions leading to a Palestinian state.

The French organizers hope the conference will send a strong message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President-elect Donald Trump that the world wants a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu says the conference is “rigged” against Israel. The incoming Trump administration is not taking part.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the summit in his last major diplomatic role before leaving office.

French diplomats say they fear Trump will unleash new tensions in the region by condoning Israeli communities on land claimed by the Palestinians and moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas had initially accepted an invitation to participate; French officials say his visit was postponed. Abbas reportedly spoke by phone on Thursday night with French President Francois Hollande and agreed to meet in two weeks’ time in Paris.

“This conference constitutes a reward to the Palestinians for continuing to avoid negotiations while promoting terrorism,” Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon warned.

Regarding the Security Council (UNSC) meeting scheduled for two days after the conference, Danon noted that “we are witnessing an attempt to promote a last-minute initiative before the new US administration takes office. Supporters of the Palestinians are looking for further anti-Israel measures.”

Danon’s comments come amid concerns that pro-Palestinian elements may attempt to promote additional anti-Israel initiatives in the Security Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, based on the closing statements of the Paris conference. Last month, the UNSC voted in an anti-Israel resolution, in which the US abstained, to condemn Israeli communities in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, calling them an obstacle to peace.

“The hypocrisy and the obsessive focus on Israel has reached new heights,” he said. “These one-sided initiatives not only fail in bringing us closer to peace, but they actually encourage terrorism like we saw in last week’s horrific attack in Jerusalem.”

Conference participants are expected to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state as the “only way” to ensure peace. According to a draft statement, the conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution.”

8 Years of Failed Attempts

Senior AP reporter Matt Lee predicts that the Obama administration’s eight years of unsuccessful Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy will come to a crashing end with this conference, with chances for a Mideast peace deal at perhaps their lowest ebb in a generation. A Paris peace conference attended by Secretary of State John Kerry is not expected to produce any tangible progress, he wrote.

At a time when President-elect Donald Trump’s administration is promising a fundamental shift toward Israel, the State Department said Kerry was participating in the French-hosted event to ensure that America’s interest in a two-state solution to the conflict is preserved. The blunt statement reinforced the dwindling hopes for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Kerry “feels obliged to be there because we have an interest in advancing a two-state solution, and we also have an interest in ensuring that whatever happens in this conference is constructive and balanced,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

No one realistically expects a plan to emerge that could lead to new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Kerry’s biggest decision in Paris could be whether or not to sign the concluding document if it includes a specific warning to Trump against moving the embassy. The Palestinians, Arab nations and others are pushing the issue, fearing the US move could spark a new conflagration in an already-inflamed region. French officials say the warning could be in the document.

Kerry’s signature would be a shot across the bow of Trump’s foreign policy and further question President Barack Obama’s promises for a smooth transition of power.

By: United with Israel Staff
AP contributed to this report.