Israel turns its again on French-Egyptian Mideast initiative

Jan 15, 2021

For Israel, the previous few days have been stuffed with diplomatic exercise. On Jan. 5, the Foreign Ministry picked Ambassador Eytan Na’eh to go its future mission in Abu Dhabi. Just a few days later, the ministry picked former Ambassador David Govrin to go its future liaison workplace in Rabat. According to different stories, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi had met this previous weekend together with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi. The discreet assembly had targeted on selling strategic pursuits, together with points pertaining to the safety, financial and civil ties between the 2 international locations. The two males had met final at first of December. On Jan. 13, the Emirates introduced that Israeli vacationers may now enter the nation and not using a pre-requested visa. On the exact same day, Israeli and Moroccan representatives signed aviation agreements to set up direct flights between Rabat and Tel Aviv.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has additionally been busy diplomatically. On Jan. 11, he participated in a world on-line discussion board with six different heads of states, exposing Israel’s relentless mass vaccination drive. The discussion board had been established final April, within the midst of the primary wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The thought was for these international locations to share their experiences in efficiently battling the pandemic. The driving forces behind this discussion board have been Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Netanyahu.  

One may say that this listing is certainly spectacular, reflecting Israel’s vitality on totally different diplomatic phases. However, Israel selected to keep away from one main diplomatic rendezvous that befell final week in Cairo. The international ministers of Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany met Jan. 11, in an try and revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The 4 ministers had invited Israeli and Palestinian international ministers to hitch them in Cairo. In order to facilitate issues, they provided Ashkenazi and Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Malki to fulfill with them on the identical day, on the similar venue, however individually.

Ashkenazi was fast to reply that he wouldn’t be coming. The official cause was the nationwide lockdown imposed all through Israel as of Jan. 7 at midnight for a two-week interval. Without any business flights, Ashkenazi may hardly get to Egypt, his individuals reasoned. Still, Ashkenazi didn’t suggest any digital assembly as a substitute. It appears that he most well-liked to maintain his distance. Netanyahu, for his half, made no reference as soon as or ever to this upcoming quartet assembly. With that, Malki determined to not come. He did robust ship a message for the members.

A joint assertion issued on the finish of the Cairo assembly hinted on the disappointment over Ashkenazi’s response. “The ministers discussed their recent contacts with their Palestinian and Israeli counterparts and the views of each party. They also took note of the message addressed by the Palestinian Foreign Minister to the host of the meeting H.E. Sameh Shoukry,” the assertion learn. It continued, “At the end of the meeting, the ministers agreed to reach out to the Palestinians and the Israelis conveying their common vision on the way forward towards peace.”

The quartet assembly was important for a number of causes. It adopted a primary assembly between the 4 events final July, with the identical objective of reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations — maybe by way of a world convention. Then in September, at his handle to the UN General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took up this concept once more, providing it worldwide visibility. The European Union had made it a behavior of initiating yearly or so worldwide conferences and boards for peace within the Middle East. But this behavior got here to a halt with French President Emmanuel Macron, who determined to go away the Israeli-Palestinian stage to US President Donald Trump. Now that Trump is on his means out, France has apparently determined to step into that area once more.

The causes behind the French-Egyptian initiative are clear to Israel. Jerusalem is aware of that with the Biden administration, issues may look very totally different in contrast with the years Trump spent within the White House. People near President-elect Joe Biden had already hinted as such throughout the election marketing campaign and after his November victory. Jerusalem is aware of that Biden won’t provide annexation of West Bank elements, won’t hail Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and will definitely not play the one-sided mediator, the best way Trump did. The new administration will push for renewal of talks. Still, that doesn’t imply that Jerusalem wish to see Paris getting into the image.

An Israeli diplomat informed Al-Monitor Jerusalem is in a bind over the initiative. Over the years, Jerusalem had pushed apart and ignored a number of French Middle East initiatives. It refused to take part in the 2016 and 2017 Paris Peace Conferences organized by the individuals of former President Francois Hollande. But ignoring an initiative that includes additionally Cairo can be extra delicate. After an extended interval of almost two years with out an envoy in Cairo, Israel has now the very skilled and lively Amira Oron heading the embassy there.

Paradoxically, it’s Paris itself that is cementing Jerusalem’s resistance to such an imitative. On Jan. 12, it issued a press release condemning Israel’s selections to advance the development of houses in West Bank settlements, calling on the Israeli authorities to not implement these selections. A press release issued by the French Foreign Ministry stated, “It calls on the parties to avoid any unilateral measures that could undermine the two-state solution based on international law and the agreed parameters.” The silence of Jerusalem vis-a-vis this assertion spoke volumes. Jerusalem didn’t even hassle rejecting it.