- France announced it was preparing a "joint move" to try to revive peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
- The French Foreign Minister's announcement coincided with the issuance of a joint statement by five European countries opposing annexation.
- The US plan for peace in the Middle East, announced in late January, gave Israel the green light to annex the Jordan Valley.
In conjunction with the announcement of five European countries on the UN Security Council, rejecting Israel’s intention to annex lands in the West Bank, the French Foreign Minister announced a “European move” in response to the move that Israeli government intends to take.
France announced on Wednesday that it was preparing with other European countries, including Germany, Italy and Spain in particular, a “joint move” to try to revive peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. They warned the Jewish state that it might face a European “response” if it implemented its plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
“For the past few days we have held several video conferences with European colleagues (…) with a view to deciding on a joint preventive action and eventually a reprisal if such a decision were taken,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday evening during a hearing before the National Affairs Committee of the National Assembly Joint action.
The French Foreign Minister’s announcement coincided with the issuance of a joint statement by five European countries that are members of the United Nations Security Council, opposing the annexation of the West Bank by Israel. The statement, signed by the delegates of France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, and Poland, at the United Nations, confirmed that the five countries refuse to recognize any change that Israel is making on the pre-1967 borders.
In front of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly, Le Drian made it clear that the goal of his country’s joint move with the other three European countries— Germany, Italy, and Spain— is to bring “everyone back to the negotiating table.” He noted that he would meet “within a few days” with his new Israeli counterpart. “We will work in this direction with each other discreetly, and in a more open way if we have the opportunity in the coming days,” the French minister said.
Le Drian said, “we are working together on a joint move to ward off, and perhaps to respond if it implements” its plan to annex occupied Palestinian lands. He stressed that Israel’s taking of this matter “would constitute a serious violation for us” to international law, and “would endanger the two-state solution, and the possibility of lasting peace, in a way that is irreversible.”
On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset approved the new unity government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival, Benny Gantz. Under an agreement between the two men, the unity government will last for a period of three years, with Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009, and Gantz, as prime minister, to share the first eighteen months.
In a speech to the Knesset, Netanyahu affirmed that he would proceed with a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. According to the signed deal, the new government can start July 1 by implementing the first annexation step. The US plan for peace in the Middle East, announced in late January, gave Israel the green light to annex the Jordan Valley, the strategic region that accounts for 30 percent of the West Bank.
After the inauguration of the Israeli government, the French Foreign Ministry affirmed its commitment to work for a lasting and just peace between the Palestinians and Israel. In his statements to the National Assembly yesterday, Le Drian noted that his country “is in contact with the Arab countries, especially with Jordan, Egypt and the countries that have signed peace agreements with Israel, so that these countries can transmit high-level messages to the Israeli government,” as well as to the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas renewed the threat on Tuesday to end security cooperation with Israel if it implemented its plan to annex lands in the occupied West Bank.