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January 15, 2017 2:32 pm

Senior State Department Correspondent Says Paris Peace Conference ‘Marks End to Obama’s Failed Mideast Diplomacy’

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French President Francois Hollande and US Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

French President Francois Hollande and US Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Ahead of the Mideast peace summit held in Paris on Sunday, Associated Press correspondent Matthew Lee, known for his piercing questions at State Department briefings, indicated that the gathering of world representatives in the French capital would be the culmination of the “Obama administration’s eight years of unsuccessful Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.”

Analyzing the reason for US participation in the conference, which he said “isn’t expected to produce any tangible progress,” Lee wrote:

At a time when President-elect Donald Trump’s administration is promising a fundamental shift toward Israel, the State Department said Kerry was only participating in the French-hosted event to ensure America’s interest in a two-state solution to the conflict is preserved. The blunt statement reinforced the dwindling hopes for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Lee said that because no representatives from either Jerusalem or Ramallah were among the diplomats from more than 70 countries attending the summit, “[T]he US is primarily focused on shielding Israel from unfair criticism and ensuring concerns about Palestinian incitement to violence aren’t ignored.”

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However, he wrote, “[T]he administration may find its voice ignored. While the US received credit from close allies in Europe and elsewhere for abstaining” from the vote on the anti-settlement UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last month, “America’s partners have grown tired with its leadership on the peace process.”

Lee added that what Kerry and other members of the Obama administration are more concerned about is the possibility of the incoming Trump team’s making good on its talk of moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a “symbolic gesture” aimed at recognizing the Holy City as the capital of the Jewish state, without waiting for any negotiations to determine its status.

According to Lee, “Kerry’s biggest decision in Paris may be a political one: whether to sign the concluding document if it includes a specific warning to Trump against moving the embassy. The Palestinians, Arab nations and others are pushing the issue, fearing the US move could spark a new conflagration. French officials say the warning could be in the document” — a draft of which Lee said was obtained by AP — urging Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution.” Lee said it also “tells Israel that no changes to its pre-1967 borders will be recognized if the Palestinians aren’t in agreement.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who railed against the conference last week, saying it constituted a “reward to the Palestinians for continuing to avoid negotiations while promoting terrorism,” reiterated his criticism on Sunday, while the summit was underway.

“The Paris conference is so detached from reality that it has extended a hand towards Palestinian obstructionism instead of towards peace,” Danon said in a statement. “Rather than advancing a joint effort to battle global terrorism, the conference focused obsessively on Israel as part of an attempt to push forward a last-minute initiative just days before the new US administration takes office. In the next few weeks, we will enter a new era and work with the incoming US administration to undo the damage caused by the Security Council resolution and these other one-sided initiatives.”

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