Exasperated by Netanyahu, France Prepares to Recognize Palestinian State

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Even the staunchly pro-Israel French Socialist Party has had it with Israeli expansionism and aggression. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced Friday that France would make one last push to restart diplomatic negotiations between Israel and Palestine, but said that if the endeavor failed then France intended to recognize the Palestinian state. Paris is obviously implying that the failure of diplomacy and the abrogation of the Oslo peace process are primarily the fault of the Likud government of Israel.

Laurent_Fabius_January_2015
Laurent Fabius via Wikipedia

The French parliament urged recognition of Palestine in a vote in 2014. Sweden has recognized Palestine and a number of other European countries have raised the Palestinian mission in their capitals to the rank of full embassy.

This tendency toward recognition of Palestine holds severe diplomatic and economic dangers for Israel. Such recognition gives aggrieved Palestinians the possible right to sue Israeli squatters and the politicians backing them in European courts. Already, the French, British and Dutch governments advise their corporations not to do business with Israeli squatters on the West Bank, since they are opened to being sued by the actual owners of that land. The European Union recently insisted that squatter produce be so labeled and not be dishonestly represented as “Israeli.” Even the US State Department has backed the EU on this measure.

On Tuesday in an address on policy to the diplomatic corps in Paris, French President Francois Hollande had said,

“the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be felt throughout the Middle East. It would be naive, dangerous even, to look the other way. Each day, we see the risk of a flare-up. Every missed deadline takes us further away from the two-state solution, which is nonetheless the solution backed by the international community. France has therefore once again taken the initiative, as announced by Laurent Fabius, of mobilizing the Arab actors and the European and American partners in the framework of an international support group and the Security Council. This proposal is still on the table and it is the only one, currently, that would enable the dialogue to be resumed.”

The remarks came after a review of French steps to fight terrorism, and it seems clear that establishing a Palestinian state is seen by Paris to be a form of counter-terrorism, having potential for tamping down tensions in the Middle East. Paris was hit by significant terrorist attacks twice in 2015, with most of the perpetrators being marginalized, angry French and Belgian second-generation Arab immigrants. Something on the order of 5% of French are Muslim, and that community tends to support Palestinian rights and to pressure the French government to do so. French Muslims vote heavily for the ruling Socialist Party in France, fearing the anti-immigrant sentiments common on the French Right, including among Gaullists.

France also has good and close relations with many Arab governments, and is pressured by them about Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, as well.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has become more and more strident and arrogant in dealing with European and international politicians, acting as a sort of Donald Trump of the Middle East.

He recently has gone around accusing everyone from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström of being terrorists for complaining about his oppression of the Palestinian people. (Netanyahu maintains, laughably, that Palestinian resistance activities have nothing to do with their being militarily occupied by the Israelis, and reacts to suggestions that he might by his policies be producing Palestinian violence with the casuistic charge that making this observation encourages terrorism). At the same time, his government just this week cheekily announced that it was stealing another 150 hectares of Palestinian land on the West Bank, which it had pledge in the Oslo peace accords to turn over to Palestine.

France roundly condemned the further land theft.

On Friday Fabius slapped down Netanyahu for his insults to Ban Ki-moon and lamented that “unfortunately the colonization [of Palestinian land by Israelis] continues.”

No American politician can call Israeli policy what it is, colonization, for fear of vicious reprisals by the bullies in the Israel lobbies.

33 Responses

  1. An excellent and will written article. Not one Israeli politician has articulated their vision of Israel over the next 20 years instead they pretend that the occupation doesn’t exist and insist Israel is a democracy although 5 million Palestinians cannot vote. I’m afraid things will not change until the price of occupation becomes to high for Israel

  2. Right: “No American politician can call Israeli policy what it is, colonization, for fear of vicious reprisals by the bullies in the Israel lobbies” : “vicious reprisal” means loosing the seat in Congress or elsewhere. So: American politicians work for their own personal benefit rather than for the public they are supposed to represent. No wander the Flint (s) Mi .

  3. Despite valiant efforts, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have failed to force Netanyahu to budge over the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and to contemplate any two-state solution, or indeed any kind of solution short of total Israeli domination of the entire Palestinian territory. In his last year in office, President Obama should have another go at resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict by supporting a European and UN initiative to find an equitable solution to the conflict before another major war breaks out in the region. This would surpass his great success with the Iranian nuclear deal.

    With the grip that the Zionist Lobby has over Congress, no US Administration will be able to act as an honest broker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Therefore, the only option would be to allow the UN and the rest of the world to take the lead and simply promise not to block their efforts by vetoing a Security Council resolution. With Saudi Arabia allying itself overtly with Israel and the rest of the Arab world in disarray, there would be no objection from the Arab side to the official recognition of Israel, and the present government in Iran is also the one most likely to agree with a reasonable solution to the conflict. Therefore, it is time for the US Administration to ally itself with those who wish to bring an end to this long-lasting conflict and illegal occupation and remove a major cause of anti-Western feeling in the Middle East.

    • “Despite valiant efforts, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have failed to force Netanyahu to budge”.
      I suppose these valiant efforts include handing over several billions of dollars to Netanyahu every year. These funds are supposedly for the defence of Israel. Unfortunately, they are fungible.

    • “Therefore, the only option would be to allow the UN and the rest of the world to take the lead and simply promise not to block their efforts by vetoing a Security Council resolution.”

      That appears to be what’s happening as we speak.

  4. Good news on a subject where good news is rare. Sad, perhaps, to the extent that doing the right thing is motivated by fear rather than the desire to do the right thing, but better than inaction. The U.S., after all, merely doubled down on wrong policies after 9/11 by gratuitously invading and occupying Iraq.

  5. Vive la France for not turning a blind eye to the theft and apartheid practiced by Netanyahu and company.

  6. The goal of the French proposal is to promote the resumption of the ‘peace process’ or the resumptions of ‘talks’ between the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel. Such ‘talks’ have been going on since 1988, 28 years ago, when the PLO recognized Israel on 80% of the land of Palestine and for about 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords of 1993, the basis of which was to establish a Palestinian state with 5 years.

    During all this time, as talks have been ongoing, Israel has been aggressively destroying Palestinian homes, confiscating Palestinian land, establishing or expanding Jewish settlements, confiscating Palestinian resources, including water beneath the West Bank, destroying Palestinian wells and water related structures and in myriad way consolidating the the exclusive Israeli control over East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan.

    What good are ‘peace talk’ when Israel is only using them as political cover while the expropriation of Palestinian land continues.?

    When Israeli Prime Minister Ytzhak Shamir lost the re-election in 1992, he stated:

    ” I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria. … This must be the historic direction. If we drop this basis, there would be nothing to prevent the development of a Palestinian state.”

    Mr Shamir has stated the guiding strategy of the Lukud Party, but American officials, and again, the French, paid no attention continuing to promote the ‘peace process’ as if this and not the achievement of a just peace was the only goal.

    • At times offers are made in international politics without expectation of an acceptance. For the reasons you point out this is most likely one of them. But such offers have to be made anyway simply for the record. The right wing Israeli regime has had its opportunity and has already squandered it.

  7. Does this mean we Americans, out of our support for Israel, will be ordering ‘Freedom Fries’ off the menu, again? If eventually America would quit defending Israel at the U.N. then the Palestinians stand a chance for something to change their plight. As an American taxpayer I find our country’s support of Netanyahu’s Israel a disgrace, but then who in our U.S. Government cares about what I think?

    • Part of this of course involves intuition, but it is not baseless.

      This French initiative is almost certainly coordinated with the American Administration and done with other Western powers in the loop. It was to go forward earlier but was “suspended,” not canceled, at our request because the Iranian negotiations were complex and not yet resolved. Obama is trustworthy. He is now coming back to it. We also publicly said in the same time frame that we were reviewing the veto policy regarding Israel. Other reports in the press were that we were reviewing our relationship with Israel.

      As Mr. Wibberley says, it has been brewing for a long time. I see the pivot to Asia as partially connected to it. Most of our Navy has left the region. At one point a month or two ago only one US carrier strike force was anywhere near the Middle East hot spots. It was in the Bay of Bengal. The rest were tied up in the U.S. That’s a major disincentive to Israeli adventurism. It’s can also be seen as a peaceful gesture toward Iran. There are lots of little indicators including the fact that this indirect method of dealing with the problem leaves the American branch of the Israel Lobby with no one to intimidate except the UNSC. That’s way beyond its capacity. So is the French Government. And so at this juncture is the White House.

      • Thank you for such an excellent analysis. For better or worse, I think Obama will be credited big-time (in the future) for the ‘pivot to Asia.” Now is the time to work for it to be peaceful. China’s mopping up resources as the US hesitates. The neos are already pushing for a mid-century war! The Arab of the 21st century will be Chinese.

        • What seems to be happening is not free of worry. The current Israeli coalition is a hotbed of Revisionist and Religious Zionism. The former’s founder Ze’ev Japotinsky, the ideological inspiration for the Likud was blunt as to what it represented:

          “Zionism is a colonising adventure and it therefore stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through with playing at colonization.'[84][85]

          and that

          “Although the Jews originated in the East, they belonged to the West culturally, morally, and spiritually. Zionism was conceived by Jabotinsky not as the return of the Jews to their spiritual homeland but as an offshoot or implant of Western civilization in the East. This worldview translated into a geostrategic conception in which Zionism was to be permanently allied with European colonialism against all the Arabs in the eastern Mediterranean.”[86]

          It is also important to recall that that the two great spasms of ethnic cleansing in 1947-48 and 1967 were consciously accomplished under cover of international wars. The Israeli People would be well advised to demand new elections in timely fashion. The present coalition is capable of starting a new war in Lebanon against Hezbollah and Syria no longer even exists.

  8. Unfortunately for peace and a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is really up to the Israelis according to Uri Avnery who has little hope that might occur – link to counterpunch.org. Avnery recognizes the need of outside pressure but that it also its limits.

    Apparently, Obama’s recent visit to the Israeli embassy made the Israelis feel much better about themselves and relieved the outside pressure to some degree: “After ‘tepid’ welcome at Israeli Embassy, Obama’s pro-Israel speech brought down the house” by Philip Weiss – link to mondoweiss.net

    • Netanyahu has already flatly rejected the French initiative. There will be no further talks. President Obama stopped wasting time on negotiations with the obdurate Israeli P.M. months ago. The next steps are for the two proposed French Resolutions, one on the illegality of the settlements and the other on a declaration of Palestinian Statehood, to be filed and scheduled for prompt hearing in the UNSC. That hearing will be one of the most interesting events at the UN in recent decades, one which Dr. Cole correctly points out is fraught with danger for Israeli policies.

      Absent an American veto the gates will be thrown open to European consideration of sanctions. For what my personal view is worth, I believe that President Obama will conclude that the American People have no national interest in vetoing those resolutions. He has accomplished everything possible on the domestic front over seven years. His successor is likely to be a man or woman of his own party. He has the opportunity to resolve this terrible problem so that the new administration is not immediately plunged into the perpetual crisis which he has struggled with in the best of faith for years.

      And it will take no more than two “yes” or “abstention” votes in the UNSC. to set it in motion.

      • I think what you suggest has been inching forward for some time. I can’t put a finger on it but I have sensed it, not as anything anti-Israel as decreasingly pro. Quite aside from the lobbies, Obama cannot act out of tune with broad US public feeling on the matter and that includes a large chunk of indifference about the Palestinians per se which I don’t think it’s realistic to assume will change since the horrific images and stories fro the area haven’t already changed it. On the other hand Israel itself has provoked not inconsiderable global negativity, largely through Netanyahu’s insufferable behaviour, and that’s what really exasperates Europeans and can rouse them to action. Obama, who is cerebral rather than emotional, surely knows this and even though Kerry’s relentless efforts achieved no practical resolution they must have provided the clearest possible picture of Israel’s thinking, strengths, and weaknesses. Obama may be very gradually leaving the door ajar and allowing the initiative to slip into other hands. This is necessary because there is a real danger that Americans, who are peculiarly emotional, may be incapable of turning on Israel without becoming anti-Semitic. Netanyahu certainly knows this and waves it about like a grenade with the pin removed. It doesn’t work that well in Europe which better understands the excesses of 20th century anti-Semitism as a specifically Nazi manifestation.

      • Obama is very politically savvy most of the time. I think it would be best if the French wait until after our November elections when, hopefully, a Democrat wins the White House. Then President Obama can look the other way when these type of resolutions go before the UN and this would not damage the party’s election chances. Given the strength of the Israeli lobby, although I feel certain the President wants these resolutions to be approved, he doesn’t want to do anything to damage the Democrats chances of winning.

    • Uri Avnery attempts to look at the South African comparison (sensible since the state of Israel is very very much like apartheid South Africa).

      But he misses the main point: South African apartheid fell because of *De Klerk* — a lifelong National Party member, an Afrikaaner, who finally decided that they were going to lose and that they had better made a deal while they still could.

      Basically, the Afrikaaners could dismantle the system of apartheid oppression and elite control on their terms… or try to hang on to it, and be taken to the guillotine and lose all their property. The same calculation faced by the Tsars of Russia (who made the wrong choice), the Kings of France (who made the wrong choice), and the Kings of England (who made the *right* choice).

      Israel’s government seems absolutely hellbent on making the wrong choice. There might be a “de Klerk” buried somewhere within the Likud Party, but I can’t imagine it.

      I’m not sure when the populist revolution in Israel/Palestine will overthrow the fascist racist government. 20 years? 40 years? But when it happens, that’s how people will describe the event.

      • Some people see President Ruby Rivlin as the “deKlerk” – seeking a workable one-state solution, acknowledging past Zionist misdeeds, and promoting citizenship for West Bank Arabs.

        Avinery – incredibly still active at 90 years of age – has described Daphni Leef’s J-14 movement as the beginning of a “Second Israeli Republic” in which the national security structure that dominates the Israeli governmental system will give way to a true democracy for all.

    • Bill,
      Don’t you think it is more accurate to say that Obama was summoned to Israeli Embassy? Let’s face it Zionists own our government. I wish well to the gullible crowd that Obie will not veto Security Council Resolutions.

      • Could be Obama got the message from a pro-Israel source. It’s a good bet whatever the motivation he saw something in it for himself. As for previous insults, I’m reminded of the king’s advice to his son in Henri de Montherlant’s play “La Reine Morte” about nothing passing like an insult.

  9. Thanks for this. I live in France and am delighted to see this tiny step from the very pro-Zionist government here.

    ps “including among Gaullists.” (if there are any!)
    De Gaulle tried to be fair and was even critical of Israel, unlike most “Gaullists” today.

  10. The chances of American vetoes and other interference with the French initiative are now almost non-existent. Not even the vicious bullies of the lobbies will be able to change this trajectory. It would obviously be unconscionable Once the illegality of the settlements and the erection of a Palestinian State are carved in stone at the UNSC, international sanctions will force a solution.

  11. Even symbolically this is a good move. When will other nations be realistic and face it – Israel has never honestly wanted any resolution, and will never in the future. It wants to take all lands and get rid of Arabs from their own territories.
    Why pretend otherwise?

  12. I’ve having trouble figuring out the endgame here.

    While the world recognizes the Palestinian state, the Israeli apartheid government has already made it impossible. They are engaging in additional colonialism, ramping up racism against the Arabs who already have the vote, and now arresting left-wing activists on trumped-up charges and attempting to censor the media — heading straight for fascism.

    The Palestinian liberation movement has shifted to a one-state, civil-society, votes-for-everyone movement, within the last few years.

    So how does this work out? The Israeli government will be internationally isolated with the Palestinian state recognized, but the Palestinian state will be a “state in exile” with no actual control.

    So what happens next? I don’t see what the endgame is here. This is a horrendously unstable situation in Palestine.

    The total collapse of Saudi Arabia probably happens in the next 10 years — does that affect things?

    • The movement toward a one state solution or the two state solution by the international community are on tracks that are not incompatible as both are reactions against the continued occupation of the Palestinian people and the confiscation of land on which the Palestinian people could live. At this juncture, to work toward one is to work toward the other.

      Though it is hard to envision the likely final configuration, there is clear movement along these two interlinked tracks.

      • There is only a single solution consistent with Palestinian independence: two states, one for each ethnicity. Without Palestinian independence there can be no settlement, no peace and no Jewish State. There is one track, not two.

        The so-called one state idea which has been floated a lot recently is in fact the apartheid solution, perhaps better called the bantustan solution, in disguise. That’s what we have now. It’s simply being renamed, probably for the purpose of obfuscation.

        What we have now is not a solution to the Palestinian Refugee Problem. And it could well be a precursor to another, definitive round of ethnic cleansing.

        There is only one track to peace.

    • “The total collapse of Saudi Arabia probably happens in the next 10 years — does that affect things?”

      From whose point of view? Should we ten years from now still be joined at the hip with that particular medieval dictatorship? Surely not. And if the Saudi collapse is really going to happen and if the Israelis know it as you seem to, doesn’t that militate in favor of their having resolved the Palestinian Refugee Problem eight or nine years earlier?

      Our off-shore balancing policy which was gradually replaced by interventionism in the region by the time of the fall of the Soviet Union should by then be restored.

      Elizabeth Warren for Vice President. Rand Paul for Secretary of State.

      • Never thought of Rand Paul as Sec. of State. Great idea but a dream. Unless Trump wins.

        • The American tradition is for the new administration to give a few cabinet positions to the other party. A gesture of good will to the opposition party, etc. There is no reason why it can’t happen this time, and as a non-interventionist Senator Rand Paul dovetails perfectly with Senator Sander’s views.

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