Palestinian and Israeli leaders were unable to agree on a definition of the state of Israel, said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Monday. The dispute has delayed the release of a planned statement at the conclusion of the Paris Mediterranean Union Summit. The two-day summit was called by French President Nikolas Sarkozy in an attempt to bring together the countries bordering the Mediterranean in a new union that would address ecological, transportation and commercial interests.
The talks between Sarkozy and the Palestinian and Israeli leadership were a sideline to the Summit, and were meant to push forward the plan for an end to hostilities and the creation of a Palestinian state free from Israeli military occupation.
But as the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (of the Fateh government) discussed with French President Nikolas Sarkozy the wording of a public statement, the two leaders could not come to an agreement on the wording of the statement.
The Palestinian leadership took issue with the dual definition of Israel as both a “state of the Jewish people” and a “national and democratic state”. These two definitions, both in the same statement, contradict each other and negate the Palestinian people's internationally recognized rights.
The recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish state' has long been a contentious point for the Palestinians, particularly for the democratically-elected Hamas government (a rival to Abbas' Fateh party). Hamas has been unwilling to recognize the Jewish character of the Israeli state, as in doing so, they would deny the right of return to the nearly five million Palestinian refugees that were forced out of their homes into exile when the state of Israel was created on their land in 1947. Hamas holds that the internationally-recognized right of return of refugees should be applied to Palestinian refugees.
The final wording of the Paris Summit statement was intentionally vague, in order to avoid contention, stated representative of French President Sarkozy.
French-initiated regional conference begins in Paris
Sun, 13 Jul 2008 21:58:04
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, met with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the French President Nicholas Sarkozy Sunday to begin discussion on a possible accord between Israel and the Palestinians. This comes eight years after the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against the 40-year long Israeli military occupation of all of their remaining land.
During the eight years since the uprising began, the Israeli military and Israeli settlers have worked to expand Israeli 'facts on the ground' – settlements on Palestinian land and the Israeli Annexation Wall – in order to expand the amount of land that would be ceded to the state of Israel if a peace deal is ever reached. In addition, over 5,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed, and over 900 Israelis. More than 10,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned in Israeli prison camps, most of them open-air camps in the Negev desert.
Sarkozy called for the trilateral talks while all three leaders are in Paris for the Summit for the Union of the Mediterranean. The democratically-elected Palestinian government led by the Hamas party was not invited to the talks, but only the Israeli-favored leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who represents the rival Fateh party. Analysts note that Abbas has in the past shown himself to be more compliant with Israel's demands of the Palestinian people, while the Hamas party has demanded that Israel end its occupation of Palestinian land and its targeting of Palestinian civilians, before negotiations can be made.
The Israeli government has stated in the past that its aim in 'talks' with the Palestinians is to force the Palestinians to cede more land for the Israeli state, while maintaining military control over all remaining Palestinians. The Israeli government also demands that all Palestinian refugees who were forced out of Palestine when Israel was created on their land in 1948 give up their internationally-recognized rght to return to their homeland.
In a statement made outside the Summit on Sunday, Ehud Olmert pledged to free some Palestinian political prisoners, whether or not there is a swap deal with the Palestinian Authority. This would be a gesture toward the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to make him more powerful than the elected government of Hamas.
In the last six months alone, Israeli authorities have abducted more than 3,000 Palestinians, many of whom are being held without charge. The number being considered for release is less than the number abducted each month, which leads critics to call Israel's 'offer' disingenuous.