Randa Takieddine
Dar Al-Hayat
September 8, 2010 - 12:00am

French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed a high degree of resentment of the fact that the European Union was not invited to the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, during his meeting with President Hosni Mubarak at the Elysee Palace on his way to Washington. Meanwhile, the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was the only European minister who sent a letter to Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, to say that the absence of the European Union (EU) from the these talks is unacceptable.

In truth, Sarkozy was dissatisfied with the fact that the EU is the largest contributor when it comes to economic ties with Israel, and also at the level of building the institutions of the Palestinian state. As far as Russia is concerned, meanwhile, its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Paris yesterday that his country’s absence is not important because it is only a small detail, but that what matters is making progress in difficult negotiations and working on pushing them forward. However, this begs the following question: who benefits from such absence? The fact that key members of the Quartet are absent from these talks prompts the skeptics of their progress and their outcome to have more doubts that the American sponsor that is totally biased in favor of Israel, may abandon the principles of the Quartet, which were announced in Moscow last March. These principles had been endorsed by the U.S administration which was represented in Moscow, where some points mentioned in the statement of the European Summit in Brussels (December 2009) were reiterated, including the illegality of settlements, the borders of the Palestinian state and the position on the issue of Jerusalem.

French President Sarkozy, who has a close relationship with Netanyahu, had previously presented the traditional French position before the Israeli Knesset, and went even further than his predecessors Jacques Chirac and Francois Mitterrand in stressing that Jerusalem must be the capital of two states.

In fact, Netanyahu, and in spite of his friends in the French administration, does not favor the participation of Europe in these talks because he realizes that its position, in particular that of France, is more nuanced in what related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the problem also lies in the absence of a unified position among the European states with respect to this issue, and with respect to foreign policy in general.

While France played an important role in encouraging Mahmoud Abbas to participate in these talks in Washington, Paris was not rewarded by being invited alongside Egypt and Jordan. Also, Ms. Ashton said that she was committed to an important meeting in China, but at any rate, she had not been invited.

In fact, the absence of Europe and Russia suggests that the policy pursued by President Obama, which he in the beginning said will be more in line with the tenants of international cooperation and under the umbrella of the United Nations, will renege on these early intentions. Instead, the U.S administration under Barack Obama returned to its traditional role, the superpower that has the final say in the world, while it is committed to Israel’s desires.

Yesterday, the French Foreign Minister was turning the page on France’s regret of not being invited with the European Union to attend the launching of the direct negotiations. The problem here is that the Israeli Prime Minister does not welcome European pressures, and hence, it was better for him that Hillary Clinton ignore all that has been announced by the Quartet in her speech announcing the start of the negotiations.

For decades, Europe has been aspiring to play a role in the peace process, but neither does its relations with Israel help to do so, nor its financial contributions. Unfortunately, all the Arab countries look forward to the role of the U.S sponsor which alone can put pressure on Israel, but which seldom does. No matter how sincere the U.S administration is the American system remains biased in favor of Israel, and hence, cannot be an honest intermediary.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017