On his second European stop, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace on Wednesday.
Before the start of the two sides’ meetings, the French president warned that violence could erupt at any moment, calling for “action and addressing the deep political causes.”
Macron blamed Israel, without naming it, for the suspension of the political track since 2014, pointing to unilateral field measures, especially settlements, and the confiscation of Palestinian property, which he described as actions that “contradict international law and impede the establishment of two states living side by side.”
“We have no choice but to re-launch peace efforts,” he said, stressing that he would “work with all parties of good will to find a credible political horizon.”
The French president emphasized his willingness to mobilize the international community in efforts that will lead to resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians and result in a “just and lasting peace”.
However, he admitted the presence of “difficulties”, adding that the current moment was “perhaps the most difficult, but we have no other alternative.”
Macron’s statements diverged with the comments made by US President Joe Biden.
The latter did not hesitate to say, after his meeting with Abbas in Bethlehem, that he would not pursue a peace plan, and that the moment was not appropriate.
He went on to say that he would move to revive the process only when the two sides show willingness to resume negotiations.
Diplomatic sources in Paris said that the French president, who received the Israeli prime minister on July 5, “wants to invest his friendship” with Yair Lapid, who stressed his conviction that the two-state solution would allow “Israel to remain a democratic Jewish state.”
In fact, the two have a longstanding friendship since Macron was minister of Economy in the government of President Francois Hollande in 2016. However, the same sources questioned the French president’s ability to exert pressure in this regard, drawing a very pessimistic picture, for 3 reasons:
First, France does not have enough influence on the Israeli side, and therefore, needs European impetus. But the European Union, which follows the rule of consensus in foreign policy, is divided against itself, as a number of countries, such as Hungary, Germany and others, do not want in any way to disturb Israel. In any case, Israel has always refused to let Europe play a political role, because it considers it “biased towards the Palestinian side.”
The second reason is linked to the Israeli general elections that will be held on the first of November. In fact, no development in this direction can take place under Lapid, the prime minister of a transitional government.
The third reason is that Biden himself faces the midterm elections next fall. Opinion polls suggest that he will lose the weak majority in Congress. This explains, in part, his caution and reluctance to launch any political initiative.
However, some analysts believe that Macron wanted to take advantage of the US “vacuum” in the peace file, and focus on the minimum, i.e. providing financial aid to the Palestinians.
These sources question the seriousness of the promises of the French president, who “did not offer any gesture in his foreign policy during the five years of his first term, in contrast to his relentless activity on the Lebanese, Iraqi, Libyan and Sudanese arenas.”
During his meeting with Macron, Abbas was keen to thank Brussels for “the important and continuous role in creating stability and security and improving the economic conditions of the Palestinian people, until they are freed from the occupation,” stressing the importance of “maintaining this political and economic support provided by the European Union and its member states.”
Nonetheless, Abbas wants more from the European Union, whose official collective policy is based on calling for a political solution based on “the establishment of a viable and geographically connected Palestinian State.”
The Palestinian president is seeking for the official recognition of the Palestinian State from the active Western countries, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain. He believes that such a matter will have its influence and weight on the political track.
But Paris is still hesitant, arguing that such “recognition must be collective” at the European level. But some analysts believe that the real reason is that the French governments do not want a rupture with Israel, which will impede any mediation or any active role in the future, especially if the recognition is unilateral on the part of France.