Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Is Israel's opposition leader siding with Bibi against French initiative?

Akiva Eldar,

Image from article, with caption: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault during a meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, May 15, 2016.

The timing of the May 15 Jerusalem visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault could not have been more perfect, killing as it did two birds with one stone.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to cooperate with the French peace initiative dealt a blow to the very essence of Israel’s public diplomacy — the claim that Israel yearns for peace but does not have a Palestinian partner. The cold shoulder that Netanyahu gave the French diplomatic initiative confirms that the speech he delivered seven years ago at Bar-Ilan University, declaring his commitment to the two-state solution, was not worth the paper it was written on. On the other hand, the warm response of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to that same initiative illustrates to the international community that the peace rejectionist does not necessarily reside in the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah. ... 
May 16 marked the centenary of the agreement signed by the French government’s envoy, Francois Georges Picot, with the representative of the British Foreign Office, Mark Sykes, dividing control over the lands of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. According to the agreement, when World War I ended, the Land of Israel was divided between the two colonialist powers (another area was handed over to international control). How symbolic that Israel marks almost half a century of occupation in June 2017 when France is the one trying to help it shake off its colonialist burden. Still, the French prospects of success are uncertain.

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