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Can France Make Middle East Peace?

RAMALLAH – Since the beginning of the year, the French government has been building support for an international conference to restart the Israel-Palestine peace process. France deserves applause for its brave effort to revive a process that has been going nowhere for the better part of a decade. But success will require more than courage. Any international bid to resolve the problem of Palestine depends on six factors.

The first is seriousness. When France first made its plans known in January, many dismissed the idea as little more than a diplomatic stunt. Palestinian officials were at first suspicious of the initiative. They feared that it would merely give the Israelis another photo opportunity: After the handshakes, ordinary Palestinians would continue to suffer under the occupation.

When it became clear that the French effort was in earnest, and a date was announced for preparatory talks on May 30, the clear timelines encouraged Palestinian officials to sign up to the process. This good faith must continue no matter what obstacles arise.

The second key ingredient is multilateralism. Israel, the stronger party in the conflict, prefers bilateral talks, which put it in a better position to dictate terms. The weaker side in such talks does, of course, have a sort of power: the power to say no. But the exercise of that power usually comes at a high price.