PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called for the resumption of long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in order to prevent simmering tensions in one of Middle East’s longest conflicts from boiling over again.
Speaking alongside Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the presidential palace in Paris, Macron said the situation in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories remains “more than worrying.”
“We all know that a new spiral of violence can start at any moment,” Macron said on Wednesday. He added: “To avert this threat … that undermines the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis, we must act.”
In the short term, Macron said, that means putting an end to Israel’s unilateral measures in the occupied West Bank, including the expansion of Jewish settlements and evictions of Palestinian families from their homes. Both actions are “contrary to international law,” Macron said. He repeated his willingness to mobilize the international community in efforts that will lead to resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians and eventually result in a “just and lasting peace.”
Abbas emphasized that Israel must stop “unilateral actions ... most importantly, the building of illegal settlements” that slice the territory the Palestinians want for their state alongside Israel in pieces.
Abbas was meeting with Macron in Paris after the Palestinian leader had met with US President Joe Biden in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last week. Biden offered compassion and financial assistance for hope-starved Palestinians but also delivered a blunt acknowledgment that the “ground is not ripe” for new attempts to reach an elusive peace.
Political uncertainty in Israel, which is holding another round of elections in November, and the weakness of Palestinian Authority leadership has dimmed any chance of restarting negotiations that broke down more than a decade ago.
Earlier this month, Macron hosted Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid in the Elysee Palace and called on him to revive talks toward peace with the Palestinians.
Lapid, who is expected to stay in the prime minister’s role until the election in November, supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians. But as a caretaker leader, he isn’t in a position to pursue any major diplomatic initiatives.
Israel and Morocco strengthened military ties during meetings between the Jewish state’s army chief and Moroccan defense officials in the kingdom.
Israeli army chief Aviv Kohavi, who arrived on Monday, met with the Inspector General of the Royal Armed Forces Belkhir El-Farouk, an Israeli army statement said.
He also met with Morocco’s minister delegate in charge of defense administration, Abdellatif Loudiyi, and intelligence chief Brahim Hassani, it added.
It is the first official visit of an Israeli Army chief to the North African kingdom.
During the discussions, the Moroccan side noted its “interest in jointly setting up industrial defense projects in Morocco,” the kingdom’s army chief said in a statement.
“The meetings discussed opportunities for military cooperation, both in exercises and training, as well as in the operational and intelligence fields,” a statement said.
Morocco cut relations with Israel in 2000 following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, but re-established ties two decades later in a deal that saw Washington recognize Rabat’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.
Since then, a steady stream of Moroccan and Israeli officials have visited each others’ countries and signed cooperation deals in various fields. They have included Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who on a visit to the kingdom in November last year signed a security agreement making it easier for Rabat to acquire high-tech exports from Israel’s defense industry.
Last month, Israeli military observers for the first time attended the annual “African Lion” military exercise — vast drills involving thousands of personnel from several nations, co-organized by Morocco and the US.