Baby Steps: France Initiates New Round of Israel-Palestine Peace Talks

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Imagine peace talks where the two parties vying for compromise are absent at the negotiating table. This is the reality in the long, fraught history of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. On Friday, France hosted diplomats from all over the world–including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon–to discuss a two state solution for Israel and Palestine, an elusive bargain that all sides say cannot materialize unless talks directly involve those two parties.

For decades, the U.S. has been the lead mediator for peace, and though France’s decision to host talks doesn’t mean it will take over that mantle, it is seen by the Palestinians as a step toward having a more neutral government at the forefront of the talks. The PLO–Palestinian’s governing body–views America’s close ties with Israel as a potentially problematic factor in hosting neutral peace discussions.

“We must act, urgently,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, “to preserve the two-state solution, revive it before it is too late.”

The French effort comes at a time of deepening mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians, as months of stabbings and violence have cast a pall over an already darkening mood. Israeli settlements in the West Bank–which, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem would likely make up a future Palestinian state–are an unmovable obstacle for peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Friday’s discussions, saying peace can only happen with direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the PLO, while not present in Paris, embraced the French initiative, if only because it represented a step in shifting the mediating role from the Americans to a more neutral partner in France.

The most recent brush with peace came in 2012, when a majority of the U.N. General Assembly recognized Palestine as a state. Israel did not, so a two-state reality remained out of reach. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tirelessly worked at achieving peace in 2014 but no deal was reached. On the latest stab at peace by the French, Kerry said: “We’re just starting, let’s get into the conversations.”

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at



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