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With new US leadership, Germany, France, Egypt, Jordan push for resuming Mideast peace talks

France, Germany continue to advocate for two states along 1967-lines

(L-R) German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attend a meeting in Egypt to discuss ways to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Jan. 11, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

The Munich Quartet Group - consisting of the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Egypt and Jordan - met in Cairo last week where they called for the implementation of the two-state solution, “ensuring an independent and viable Palestinian state based on June 4, 1967, lines and UN Security Council resolutions, living side by side a secure and recognized Israel.” 

The foreign ministers also "expressed willingness to work with the United States toward facilitating negotiations leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region, based on the internationally-recognized parameters, and re-launching a credible peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis."

There have been no direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians for almost seven years after the last attempt in April 2014 failed, despite the efforts of then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. There has also been no contact between the Palestinian Authority and the United States since President Donald Trump unveiled his "deal of the Century" which was perceived to heavily favor Israel.

But now with a new incoming administration, could Palestinian-Israeli peace really be in the cards and are the 1967-lines a realistic premise on which to base it?

The host of the European-Arab summit, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi presented the Palestinian issue as a central factor affecting the entire Middle East. 

"Settling the Palestinian issue will alter the reality and condition of the entire region for the better," said Sisi. 

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said his country's position in the peace talks remain unchanged, which backs the establishment of a Palestinian state on the lines of the June 4, 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.

"This should be done without threatening the security of the state of Israel," he said. "The existence of two states side by side is the guarantee for stability in our region," he added.

The foreign ministers also called on Israel to "completely cease all settlement activities including in east Jerusalem." 

With merely days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced his intention to advance plans for 800 new homes for Jewish residents in the West Bank, as well as legalizing an outpost. 

Opposition to Jewish communities beyond the 1967-line has been a standard feature of European Middle East policy for decades. While generally more sympathetic towards Jerusalem than European governments, most U.S. administrations have also opposed construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. By contrast, President Donald Trump unveiled a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan in 2020 that was not based on the 1967-lines. As a result, the Palestinian Authority rejected it and Western critics dismissed it as heavily biased in Israel’s favor. Germany, France, Egypt and Jordan hope to find more common ground with the incoming Biden administration. 

Diplomats, who insist that peace must be based on the 1967-lines, usually refer to UN resolution 242, which was adopted by the UN Security Council after the Six-Day War in 1967. However, the UN resolution demands a partial, but not necessarily a complete Israeli withdrawal. It also recognizes Israel’s right to exist within recognized and secure borders. The resolution was deliberately crafted to be ambiguous, as it did not envision a complete Israeli withdrawal to the volatile 1967-lines, when adjacent Arab militaries threatened Israel’s main population centers.

Furthermore, the resolution does not even mention the Palestinians, and for a good reason: Prior to the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan occupied the West Bank. 

The Munich Quartet Group did not properly address Israel’s legitimate security concerns in Cairo, nor the fact that the local Arab population is divided geographically and politically today between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza. 

Since the 1967 War, around 400,000 Jews have moved to communities established in the West Bank, which constitute the heartland of biblical Israel. Trump’s peace plan was not the first to recognize this changing demographic reality on the ground. In a letter addressed to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, former U.S. President George W. Bush stressed that the main Jewish settlement blocs would remain part of Israel in any future peace agreement. As long as international peace proposals are based on policies detached from Middle Eastern realities, the much-needed peace will remain elusive.

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The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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