World diplomats tell Trump, Israel: Mideast needs peace

World diplomats tell Trump, Israel: Mideast needs peace

Paris: Sending a forceful message to Israel’s prime minister and the incoming Trump administration, dozens of countries called today on Israel and the Palestinians to revive work toward long-elusive peace, including an independent Palestinian state.

The closing declaration at a Mideast peace conference in Paris urged both sides to “officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution” and disassociate from voices that reject this. It also warned them against taking one-sided actions that could hurt talks, an apparent reference to Israeli settlement building.

While the Palestinians welcomed today’s declaration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the conference “rigged” and cooked up behind Israel’s back to force it to accept conditions against national interests.

The French organisers argued the conference was necessary to keep hopes alive for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, the solution favoured by the international community for the past two decades.

Many members of Netanyahu’s coalition want to abandon the two-state solution and expand settlements, and some have even called for annexing parts of the West Bank. Trump’s campaign platform made no mention of Palestinian independence.

In a nod to Israel, the final declaration of today’s conference included criticism of incitement and “terror”, a reference to Palestinian attacks. And some of the pro-Palestinian language in an earlier draft was removed after diplomats huddled in Paris today.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been increasingly critical of Netanyahu, represented the US at today’s talks and defended the effort.

He rejected Israeli criticism of the conference, saying the concept of a two-state solution to the conflict is “threatened” and must be reinforced if it is ever to happen. The communique, he said, endorses that without imposing a resolution.

“Given where things are going and what is happening, that is particularly important,” he said.

He also warned that it’s too early to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem, as proposed by US President-elect Donald Trump. “This is not the right time,” he said. “We think it’s ill-advised.”

Trump’s administration did not take part in the meeting.

While Netanyahu has voiced support for a two-state solution, his critics, including Kerry, have said that continued settlement construction on occupied territories raises questions about his commitment to pursuing a peace deal.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said today’s statement amounted to a rejection of Israel’s occupation and settlement construction in captured territories. He said it sent a message that Israel “cannot achieve peace and stability” without ending its occupation.