"The French initiative has been revived after having been proposed and frozen in 2014 because it failed to secure the support of the U.S. and the leading European countries, and because the Palestinians and the Arabs preferred to propose their own Security Council resolution," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
The text of the proposed Arab resolution was close to the French proposal. But it failed to secure the required support of nine Security Council members so as to put it to the vote despite its flexibility and the concessions it included.
Once again the Palestinians are being sold illusions and time is being bought, as shown by the Palestinians’ warm welcome for the French initiative, despite the fact that its main features remain unclear. Is it supposed to specify the bases and terms of reference of the 'peace process' and to have them endorsed by the Security Council? Or is it intended to call for a conference, similar to the  Annapolis Conference? Or is it intended to establish an international mechanism that includes other Arab, regional and foreign states, in addition to the International Quartet? Or will it aim at proposing a draft resolution to the Security Council regarding settlement activities?
According to different sources, as well as French statements, the matter has still not been decided, especially after the failure of the Arab resolution that remains fresh in people's minds. Since then, things have deteriorated in a manner that does not suggest that there is a real chance for passing a Security Council resolution that is consistent with international law and UN resolutions regarding the terms of a settlement, or launching an international conference or forming an expanded international mechanism that goes beyond the International Quartet aimed at providing cover for resuming or accompanying the negotiations.
France has repeated its commitment to recognize a Palestinian state if its initiative fails. This is good. But it may occur in a few weeks or months’ time, or in a year or two or more. If so, French elections would have been held, and a new president need not abide by the current president's promises. Meanwhile, Israel would have confiscated more territories and intensified its settlement activities, the Judaization of Palestinian lands, and its aggression. It would have completed the process of creating facts on the ground that drive the prospect of establishing a Palestinian state further and further away.
Why does France not recognize the Palestinian state now in compliance with the French Parliament's vote some years ago, and as part of an initiative that aims to mobilize the international community and pressure Israel into committing to the establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution that recognized Palestine as a member with 'observer' status?
At the end of the day, the uncertainty and hesitation that shroud the French initiative are in the interest of resuming negotiations without any binding terms of reference, with a merely formal international accompaniment for a year-and-a-half. And, should this happen, the initiative would represent a form of 'playing in extra time,' avoiding the adoption of a new track that is different to that of bilateral negotiations with U.S. or some merely formal international sponsorship.
This is despite the fact that France and the entire world knows that returning to previously failed formulas is bound to fail. Moreover, an international conference is only a procedural mechanism that cannot succeed in the absence of clear and binding terms of reference that are consistent with international law and UN resolutions, primarily the resolution that recognizes the Palestinian state as a member with observer status.
Therefore, if France wants Israel and the entire world to take its initiative seriously, it must exert pressure on Israel and the U.S. It should not only try to calm the situation down and pass the time until the U.S. presidential elections are over. This is a year in which the administration in Washington will be preoccupied and will turn into a lame duck, especially since it already announced a few months ago that it was not about to exert any further efforts to resume the negotiations, and that the most it can do is to seek to reduce the tension and prevent the situation from veering towards further Palestinian/Israeli confrontations or the collapse of a PA that requires more backing and support.
Instead of wasting one or two years in the pursuit of a new mirage, France needs to realize that it cannot be more royalist than the king. For if the Palestinian position is not strong, clear, united and able to secure Arab and international backing, France will withdraw, as it did before. Or it may confine itself to the kind of efforts that have contributed to delaying or preventing the Palestinians from adopting a new course, even though the more they delay doing so, the more their cause and rights will be squandered.
If its positions are to be taken seriously, the Palestinian leadership should stop launching multiple initiatives at the same time. It should focus on its recently announced effort to propose a draft UN Security Council resolution regarding Israel’s settler colonialism so as to confirm that it is illegal and illegitimate, and that it must be excised as called for by previous UN resolutions. This resolution must also call for the implementation of the four Geneva Conventions in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.
Such a resolution – assuming we can secure it – would restore us to the legal and political status regarding settlement activities that existed before Oslo [in 1993]. Moreover, it has a chance of being passed by the Security Council, because the Obama administration wants to leave its imprint on this issue before its departure. Furthermore, the world has had enough of Israeli settlement activities and needs to do something to salvage what it can to save the two-state solution, especially in light of the PA's erosion, its diminishing popularity and the intensifying battle over succession [to PA President 'Abbas], even though the mechanism for transferring power in case the president resigns or passes away is unclear.
It is not possible to raise the dead, nor is it proper to revive the so-called 'peace process.' For this process has been used as cover for the continuing occupation, settlement activities and aggression, especially at a time when the Israeli government is baring its teeth and is trying to use everything that is happening in the region – the destruction and terrorism, the partition of Arab countries and the revival of confessionalism and sectarianism – in order to complete the requirements of establishing Greater Israel.
The fact that France is taking action is good, as evident by the Israeli government's ire. But Israel's rejection of the French initiative is insufficient evidence that the 'Elysee initiative' can bear something positive within its folds. For this may be mere movement without effect, and an attempt to absolve oneself and waste time, especially if the well-known preconditions for success are not in place.
"But the problem does not lie with France but with us. For no one knows what we want and how we will achieve it in light of our weakness, loss, division and preoccupation with personal and side battles," concludes Masri.