In typical fashion, as soon as the US indicates that it is stepping back from trying to solve the Israel-Arab dispute and easing off the pressure on Israel, the French step up to the plate. The French attitude is usually based more on style than substance. Why should they be able to succeed in restarting the so-called “peace process” when the US has been unable to do so after many years of trying. The answer is they won’t.
French FM Laurent Fabius, after announcing the French initiative, came to the Middle East to sell his wares and visited Cairo, Amman and then met with Palestinian Pres. Abbas and Israeli PM Netanyahu. But, Fabius said he was not trying to compete with the Americans, but to complement them. He said that he wanted both sides to restart direct negotiations, although there is no obvious reason why his initiative should be any different from the failed US tries. He said he wants to introduce an “international committee” to work with the sides to help them compromise. The French are trying to introduce a resolution at the UN Security Council that will receive enough support to pass. According to reports they intend to impose a 2 year limit on the talks and they plan to limit the scope of the talks to specific topics.
PA Pres. Abbas gave his support to the French initiative, since he has been trying to get the conflict into the UN unilaterally. There he thinks he has an advantage over Israel because of majority support in the General Assembly. But, PM Netanyahu was sceptical of the French proposal, he said he saw no new reason why the Palestinians should want to restart talks again, and he issued a warning to the French not to try to impose an outside settlement on Israel. Certainly that is what the EU seems to want to do. The general consensus seems to be that if they force Israel to withdraw the “occupation” then peace will naturally follow. There is no rational basis for this simplistic belief.