01:37 GMT +314 October 2019
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    France Peace Plan for Israel-Palestine Conflict 'Baffling' - Netanyahu

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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a recent French proposal for peace talks with Palestinian leaders "baffling."

    Author and professor Ghada Talhami, of Lake Forest College, Illinois, dissects Israel's political and military orientation, the French motives for this new initiative, and the orientation of the Obama administration, in conversation with Radio Sputnik's Brian Becker.

    Netanyahu's aggressive response to the recent French peace proposal is a continuation of an Israeli tradition to not accept any suggestion from Europe with regard to ending the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, according to the academic.

    "Traditionally Israel fears any initiative by Europeans because obviously Israel is much more comfortable to deal with the US for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that it has allies within the American government that it can actually direct and use in whichever way it wants," the professor stated.

    The French peace proposal consists of convening an international peace conference, with the presence of many international powers, however, without the US, which, it is believed, could "play a role in the conference towards the end," according to Talhami.

    The French proposal for a Palestinian-Israeli conflict resolution is the country's first since the 1967 Six-Day War, when France severed relations with Israel after then-leader Ben Gurion invaded Egypt.

    According to the French government, the initiative would serve to end the "American monopoly" on hosting the peace process in the region. But, says Talhami, France is now considered to be simply another Western power, along with the US, attempting to announce a major peace initiative to end the longstanding hatred between many Israelis and Palestinians.

    "Everybody knows that the US is really withdrawing from the Middle Eastern arena. I think we have seen it in Syria where the initiative has been seized by Russia. We have seen that the US worked through surrogates, particularly Turkey," Talhami said.

    The professor asserts that the Middle East is a region that the US would like to extricate itself from, following the country's many failures, both military and diplomatic. Europeans, facing an enormous immigration from Syria, are concerned that an escalation in the endemic Israel-Palestine violence will result in increased numbers of refugees seeking asylum in Europe, an era-defining event that is "baffling and upsetting for many Europeans."

    "I don't think for one moment that Europeans will ever act on their own, particularly on the Arab-Israeli arena. I think they probably have been consulted [by the US] and they probably were given some ideas," Talhami suggested.

    In December 2014 the French parliament took a non-binding vote, recognizing Palestine as an independent sovereign entity, and this contributed to the recent French peace initiative, according to the American professor.

    "Diplomatic channels between Israel and the US have been blocked," she said, adding that Israel, though still accepting US military handouts, has stopped listening to its major ally.

    The US has not officially taken sides on the Arab-Israeli issue, but has always backed its "strategic asset" in Jerusalem.

    "Obama can do a lot, he can do a great deal. He doesn't want to," suggests Talhami, adding that the Obama administration's priority has long been the Iran nuclear deal and, as such, is considered to be a great victory for Obama, but one viewed by Israel as a great danger.

    The US media was silent concerning the two new nuclear reactors received by Israel from Germany the same week Iran signed the nuclear agreement. Israel received two German-made nuclear subs, thereby continuing their status as "a formidable nuclear power in the Middle East."

    The professor is reluctant to believe that the French peace initiative will be implemented as long as Israel is governed by the hawkish Netanyahu.

    "EU is fractured, everybody sees that. The EU really isn't effective anymore; it's going through a crisis, a deep crisis," said the author. She suggested that a weak EU is a good opportunity for France to speak for itself on behalf of Europe, raising its stature in the eyes of the continent.

    Public opinion has shifted to the negative with regard to Israel, as pro-Palestine activists around the world become more vocal. Talhami sees the tendency in European parliaments to recognize Palestine as "interesting" in that it will shape further "movements."


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