By Alexander Fulbright, Times of Israel—
Irael’s new Foreign Ministry chief on Monday hailed the lackluster outcome of Sunday’s Paris peace conference as a victory for Israel, saying Israel’s decision not to show up sent a message to the international community.
Director General Yuval Rotem took over as head of the Foreign Ministry at the end of December and gave his first interviews to the Israeli media a day after diplomats gathered in Paris to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reinforce the need for a two-state solution.
“The fact that the Paris conference has no followup is from our perspective the most meaningful accomplishment,” Rotem told Israel Radio Monday morning.
As far as Israel is concerned, the most important outcome from Paris was that it imposed “no new obligations” on Israel and “finished without any mechanism to apply or follow up” on the provisions it laid out for achieving peace, Rotem said.
“We also succeeded to a certain extent in preventing any followup, any new enforcement mechanism and any new supervision mechanism,” he said.
Rotem also noted in an interview with Army Radio the “importance in the direct recognition of a national home for the Jewish people” as part of the concluding declaration, something he said many in the international community do not recognize.
In addition, he said the conference’s declaration affirms Israel’s view that “the only way to arrive at peace is by means of direct negations between the sides.”
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians had representatives present at the conference — the second in the past year hosted by France with the aim of setting a concrete agenda for renewed peace efforts.
However, “even though we did not attend the conference, we succeeded in getting across our position,” Rotem told Army Radio.
International activity on the matter, like Sunday’s peace conference and December’s Security Council Resolution 2334, only further “encourages the Palestinians to refuse direct negotiations with Israel.”
Going into the conference, Israel had feared that the participants would build upon the Security Council resolution against settlements and formulate new measures against Israel.
Israeli officials on Sunday credited the efforts of the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry for a “significant weakening” of the text of the final joint declaration issued by the participants of the peace conference.
The Israeli officials were jubilant that “problematic passages” from the recent UN Security Council resolution on the settlements were not included in the Paris document. Furthermore, the Israeli officials expressed satisfaction over the fact that no further action against Israeli settlements is planned at the Security Council. US Secretary of State John Kerry promised as much to Prime Minister Netanyahu in a phone call from Paris earlier Sunday.
Rotem also noted the absence of the British and Russian foreign ministers at the conference, as well as that of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He credited them for wanting to develop a coordinated position with US President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office Friday. Britain refused even to sign the conference’s final joint declaration.
“Not just us, but many players in the international arena are waiting to see Trump’s approach,” Rotem noted.
Regarding Trump’s promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned at the conference would result in “extremely serious consequences,” Rotem said the Foreign Ministry’s stance was to wait and see, just as with many other of Trump’s declarations and intended policies.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.