Paris : Under the title: “Should we regret France’s Arab policy?”, the former French diplomat Gerard Araud, the former French ambassador to Israel, published an article in the French magazine “Le Point”, in which he said that the memorandum he wrote French ambassadors to Middle Eastern countries, in which they criticized President Emmanuel Macron’s foreign policy, describing it as unbalanced in favor of Israel, is an opportunity to ask: What about “France’s Arab policy” ?
The former diplomat explained: “Let us first remember that ‘Arab policy’ itself was in no way ‘balanced’, at least not in the eyes of Israel, which considered it unfriendly towards it and therefore successfully opposed France having any operational role in the peace negotiations.” . Therefore, France was limited to a declaratory role that satisfied itself, but had no significant impact on reality.” Is it time to return to it? The writer wonders.
Gerard Araud: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gradually disappeared from the agenda of French governments
Gérard Araud considered that his former colleagues’ criticisms of President Macron’s Middle East policy bear the character of nostalgia for the Middle East, where the delicious French language was spoken in Lebanon, where France welcomed Yasser Arafat in Paris, and where it nourished the enchanting illusion of the presence of influence. But the world in which this diplomacy was widespread no longer exists, and foreign policy is not an application of a doctrine, but rather a practical adaptation to the circumstances of the moment, says the former French diplomat.
The former French ambassador to Israel continues to say that, until the seventh of last October, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had gradually disappeared from the agenda of governments, stressing that he noticed this himself during the bilateral consultations he conducted with his country’s main partners, that this issue was no longer He mobilizes them, and the world is beginning to lose interest in the Palestinian issue.
In this context, in the Arab world, whose main traditional powers (Egypt, Iraq, and Syria) have weakened and where leadership has shifted to the Gulf states, French policy can only take this into account and respond to its concerns, according to Gérard Arrow, considering that it is natural for France to shift its attention. Like all other powers, it faces other challenges in the region other than the Palestinian issue, most notably the Iranian nuclear program, which is seen there as an existential threat by its partners, according to the former French diplomat.
The writer continues to say that, moreover, the Middle East is a realpolitik paradise. There is, on the one hand, the unanimous discourse on the recurring themes of Arab unity and solidarity, and on the other hand, the cold reality of the most selfish defense of national interests. It would be naive to take the first seriously, and wrong not to see the second. The current conflict over Gaza is the best example of this.
Gérard Araud: How poignant are the cries of horror that we hear today in Arab capitals about the suffering of the civilian population, but how hollow they are in reality!
How poignant are the cries of terror that we hear today in Arab capitals about the suffering of the civilian population, but how hollow they are in reality! Aside from statements responding to public feelings, most Arab countries in the region that consider “Hamas” as their enemy will be happy if Israel succeeds in Eliminate it, according to Gerard Araud, the former French ambassador to Israel.
Today, Gerard Araud continues, the Palestinian issue is back on the table, but it is clear that there is no country willing and able to address it, and this is the problem that French diplomacy should address, and not revive the enthusiasm that no longer exists, says the former French diplomat, wondering. At the same time, is France able to communicate secretly with international actors to express its readiness to participate in a coordinated effort to relaunch the peace process, the necessity of which the October 7 attack proved? And is it able to show the necessary creativity to offer them ways of working, For example, about the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership, or the security guarantees that will be given to Israel? Does France know how to move from principles to practical implementation?
A war forever? Israel faces the risk of a long-term, bloody armed confrontation in Gaza
American and Arab officials, diplomats and analysts said that Israel is entering into a risk that entails a long-term armed and bloody confrontation if it defeats the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” and occupies the Gaza Strip, without a credible plan to withdraw and move forward towards establishing a Palestinian state in the post-war period.
Two American officials, four officials from the region and four diplomats familiar with the discussions said that all the ideas put forward by Israel, the United States and Arab countries so far for managing the post-war phase in the Gaza Strip have not received widespread support, raising fears that the Israeli army may slide into a military operation. Long term security.
Diplomats: Defeating Hamas could push angry residents to extremism, fueling an uprising targeting Israeli forces in the narrow streets of the Strip.
While Israel maintains its control over the northern Gaza Strip, some officials in Washington and Arab capitals believe that Israel is ignoring the lessons learned from the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, when quick military victories were followed by armed violence for many years.
Diplomats and officials say that if the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip is overthrown and its infrastructure and economy destroyed, it could radicalize angry residents, fueling an uprising targeting Israeli forces in the Strip’s narrow streets.
Israel, the United States and many Arab countries agree on the need to overthrow Hamas after its attack on October 7, which killed about 1,200 and detained about 240. But there is little agreement on an alternative to replace it.
Arab countries and their allies in the West said that the Palestinian Authority is the natural candidate to play a larger role in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of about 2.3 million people.
But the credibility of the authority, which is run by the Fatah movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas (87 years old), was severely damaged by its loss of control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas in the 2007 conflict, and by its failure to stop the spread of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and its accusation of Corruption and inefficiency.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Palestinian Authority in its current form should not assume responsibility for the Gaza Strip. He stated that the Israeli army is the only force capable of eliminating Hamas and ensuring that terrorism does not return. Israeli officials insisted after Netanyahu’s statements that Israel does not intend to occupy the Gaza Strip.
Mohammed Dahlan , who was the security official for the Gaza Strip until the Palestinian Authority lost control of the Strip to Hamas, and whose name was proposed to take over the post-war government there, said that Israel is wrong if it believes that tightening its control over the Strip would end the conflict.
Dahlan added, from his office in Abu Dhabi, where he now lives, that Israel “is an occupying force and the Palestinian people will deal with it as an occupying force.”
He added that Hamas leaders and fighters will not surrender, but will prefer to blow themselves up rather than surrender.
Arab diplomats and officials said that the UAE supports Dahlan taking over the administration of the Gaza Strip in the post-war period. But he said no one, not even himself, would want to take over a broken and devastated region without a clear political path in sight.
Dahlan pointed out the lack of vision for the future of Gaza among Israel, America and the international community, calling on Israel to stop the war and begin serious talks on a two-state solution.
While some American officials stress Israel’s right to defend itself, they worry that the rising number of civilian deaths and injuries could push more Palestinians toward extremism.
US President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu on Wednesday that occupying the Gaza Strip would be a “big mistake.” Diplomats say that the United States and its allies do not yet see any clear road map from Israel regarding its exit strategy from Gaza, except for the declared goal of eliminating Hamas. American officials are pressuring Israel to present realistic goals and present a plan on how to achieve them.
The Israeli government did not respond to requests for comment on its post-war plan in Gaza. The Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip said that Israeli military operations in the Strip, which began in response to the October 7 attack, have so far killed at least 13,000, including at least 5,500 children.
While some American officials stress Israel’s right to defend itself, they are concerned that the rising number of civilian deaths and injuries could push more Palestinians towards extremism and push new fighters into the arms of Hamas or armed groups that will emerge to take its place. The future, according to a source familiar with US policymaking.
More than a dozen Gazans interviewed by Reuters said that the Israeli invasion is generating a new generation of militants.
Abu Muhammad (37 years old), a government employee in Jabalia refugee camp, stated that he would rather die than the Israeli occupation.
He told Reuters, refusing to reveal his full name, for fear of retaliation: “I am not (a member of) Hamas, but in days of war we are all one people, and if they eliminate the fighters, we will carry rifles and fight… The Israelis may occupy Gaza, but they will never feel safe, nor for one day”.
Two US officials, who requested to remain anonymous, said that US discussions with the Palestinian Authority, other Palestinian parties, and allies such as Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar about a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip are still in the very preliminary stages.
A senior American official said: “We have certainly not yet reached the stage of making any effort to promote that vision to our partners in the region, who in the end will have to live with it and/or implement it.”
While Biden insisted that the war must end with a “vision” for a two-state solution, which would make the Gaza Strip and West Bank a Palestinian state, neither he nor his senior advisers provided any details on how that would be achieved, nor did they even suggest resuming the talks.
Some experts believe that any effort to revive negotiations is far-fetched, due in particular to the poor morale of the Israelis after the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, as well as the morale of the Palestinians after the Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip.
“One of the many tragedies of the terrorist attack carried out by Hamas is that it powerfully demolished the Palestinian cause for an independent, sovereign state and dealt it a setback,” said Jonathan Bannikov, a former senior US intelligence official for the Middle East who currently works at the Atlantic Council think tank.
According to an informed source, Biden may decide on a more moderate initiative that could include a path to eventually resume negotiations. Biden’s advisors realize that the appetite of Netanyahu and his far-right coalition government, which rejects the idea of establishing a Palestinian state, to resume talks is negligible.
As Biden seeks re-election as president next year, he may be reluctant to alienate pro-Israel voters by being seen as pressuring Netanyahu to make concessions to the Palestinians.
In a speech he delivered in Tokyo, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken clarified Washington’s red lines regarding the Gaza Strip, saying that the administration opposes the forced displacement of Palestinians from the Strip, any reduction of its area or occupation, or the imposition of a siege by Israel. He also said that the sector cannot become a platform for terrorism.
Blinken has repeatedly stated that Washington would like to see the “revived” Palestinian Authority eventually manage the Gaza Strip unified with the West Bank.
The credibility of the Palestinian Authority has diminished under Abbas, who has run it since 2005, with the decline of hope for a path leading to achieving the two-state solution stipulated in the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993.
US officials say these mechanisms need to change. Some diplomats have stated that a leadership change within the Palestinian Authority may be possible with Abbas remaining in a ceremonial position. A senior European diplomat said that another step under discussion is to give the Palestinian Authority a major role in distributing post-war aid in the Gaza Strip to revive its legitimacy.
Some experts believe that any effort to revive negotiations is out of reach, for reasons including the poor morale of the Israelis after the atrocities, as well as the morale of the Palestinians after the Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip.
In response to a question about these discussions, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority said that the return of the Authority to the Gaza Strip is the only acceptable scenario and is being discussed with the United States and other Western powers. He refused to comment on the proposal that Dahlan or anyone else take over the leadership of a Palestinian government.
Some senior Palestinian officials, including Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, said that the Palestinian Authority will not return to ruling the Gaza Strip on the back of Israeli tanks.
Diplomats said that Western partners and some Middle Eastern countries had submitted a proposal to form a transitional administration of technocrats in the Gaza Strip for two years, supported by the United Nations and Arab forces.
But diplomats said there is resistance from major Arab governments, such as the Egyptian government, for fear of being drawn into what they see as the Gaza quagmire.
Forces in the region fear that any Arab forces deployed in the Gaza Strip will be forced to use force against the Palestinians, and no Arab country wants to put its army in this position.
No agreement on leadership
Although Abbas is not very popular among many Palestinians, there is no agreement on who will replace him in the future.
Dahlan is likely to be accepted by Egypt and Israel, but despite his work closely with the United States during his period in charge of security in Gaza, an American source said that Washington would have some reservations about his return to power. There is a long-term hostility between him and Abbas and the inner circle of officials in the Palestinian Authority, and with Hamas supporters as well.
Dahlan led a wave of arrests and repression against senior Hamas leaders in 1996, after a series of suicide bombings against Israel.
An Emirati official said that Abu Dhabi will support any post-war arrangements agreed upon by all parties to the conflict and supported by the United Nations to restore stability and achieve a two-state solution.
Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader who has been imprisoned in Israel since 2002 on charges of murder, is very popular among many Palestinians, but some in Washington consider it an impractical proposal, because the Israeli government will not want to release someone it accuses of having “stained hands.” “With blood.”
An American official said that choosing a leader for Gaza will be complicated, because each party in the region has its own preferred personalities and interests. The United States will ultimately support any leader who has the support of the Palestinian people and its allies in the region in addition to Israel.
Informed source: Biden may decide on a more moderate initiative that could include a path to eventually resume negotiations
“There is clearly a desperate need to rejuvenate Palestinian leadership, but getting into that again is very thorny,” said Joost R. Hiltermann, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the International Crisis Group.
He said that the Arab countries will absolutely reject any candidate they do not prefer, and that Hamas, which portrays itself as the leader of the struggle for Palestinian independence, will most likely win any elections.
There are great risks that the conflict could spread to the occupied West Bank and outside Israel.
Arab officials and diplomats say that no such amount of concern has been shown about the spread of military action across the Middle East since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Whatever Biden’s diplomatic decisions, his advisers say he has no interest in drawing the United States into a direct military role in the conflict, unless Iran, or its proxies in the region, threaten American security interests.
“There are no plans or intentions to deploy US military forces on the ground in Gaza, either now or in the future,” John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told reporters this month.