1,200 Israelis Call to “Support the Paris Peace Conference and Recognize Palestine Now”

In a strong message to Israel and the incoming Trump administration, dozens of countries are expected today (Sunday, January 15) to reiterate their opposition to Israeli settlements and call for the establishment of a Palestinian state as “the only way” to ensure peace in the region. France is hosting more than 70 countries at a Mideast peace summit. The timing of the conference — days before US President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration — is intentional and meant to present him with a collective international push for peace once he takes office.

Participants in a previous meeting held in Paris last June, towards the Mideast peace summit to be held today, January 15, 2017

Participants in a previous meeting held in Paris last June, towards the Mideast peace summit to be held today, January 15, 2017(Photo: French Foreign Affairs Ministry)

Trump has not yet laid out a clear policy for the region, but has signaled he will be more sympathetic to Israel’s far right than previous administrations. While indicating an eagerness to broker a peace agreement, his election platform did not mention a Palestinian state. Trump has appointed David Friedman, a Jewish-American lawyer with close ties to the settlement movement in the occupied Palestinian territories, as his ambassador to Israel. Trump also has vowed to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step the Palestinians strongly oppose.

According to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, January 13, the conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution.” It also will affirm that the international community will not recognize changes to Israel’s pre-1967 lines without agreement by both sides. The draft says that participants will affirm “that a negotiated solution with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, is the only way to achieve enduring peace.” The today’s summit comes on the heels of the adoption of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2334 last month that condemned the settlements as illegal. The resolution passed 14-0 after the United States declined to use its traditional veto power and instead abstained.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met on Saturday, January 14, with Pope Francis as he rallies international support ahead of this weekend’s Paris peace summit. Abbas raised with Pope Francis Palestinian concern about a possible move of the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  The Palestinians strongly oppose the move, saying it would kill any hopes for negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and rile the region by undercutting Muslim and Christian claims to the holy city. After the papal meeting, Abbas opened an embassy of his own: The Palestinian Embassy to the Holy See, fruit of recent accords in which the Vatican formally recognized the “Palestinian state.”

Last week, an Israeli delegation of intellectuals and former ambassadors submitted “Petition of 1,200”: “Support for the Paris Peace Conference and Call to Recognize Palestine Now.” The delegation of Israeli intellectuals and former ambassadors meet with Helene Le Gal, Ambassador of France to Israel, in order to present a petition of support for the French initiative to organize a Peace Conference in Paris.

In recent days, some 1,200 Israeli citizens signed that petition in support of the French Initiative.  The conference aims to provide a broad international base of support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The signers of the petition congratulate the French Government on convening the conference; stress the critical need to renew the peace process; and call on the conference to adopt UNSC Resolution 2334. The signatories also call for the immediate end to the occupation, which is entering its 50th year; for the establishment of a sovereign, independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel; and for the acceptance of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations.

Furthermore, the signatories call for the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the two states and appeal to the international community to strengthen its support for Israel within the 1967 borders while, at the same time, differentiating in its dealings with Israel between the legitimate State of Israel and the settlements on occupied territory, which constitute a violation of international law and a key obstacle to peace. Among the signatories are Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman, 20 Israel Prize laureates, five Israeli ambassadors, former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair, former Minister Yair Zaban, and five former Members of Knesset.