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Another Mideast round

Editorial |

The latter-day Concert of Europe has cautioned Israel and America not to abandon the hope of a two-state solution to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The caveat at the recent Paris conference was advanced  at a critical juncture ~ barely a week before Donald Trump’s inaugural.  A change or status quo in the Middle East will hinge on the new administration at the Oval Office. No less significant is the appeal to all stakeholders to disassociate themselves from perceptions that reject such a diplomatic solution to the almost relentless conflict in the Middle East. The signal from Paris has been emitted both in the direction of the Big Power and to its ally, the key player in West Asia. So very unlike the early 19th century edition of the Concert of Europe, A century later, Britain has refused to sign the rather unusual communique. Furthermore, it was represented only at the “observer level”, unlike the other EU countries. We do not know if the abstention was intended to reaffirm Whitehall’s closeness to Trump; yet the response comes through as a snub to the French summit on the Middle East. There is little doubt that it has been accorded a minor rating in the overall diplomatic construct.

Of course, Britain does have a point when it contends that it has “reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them. The subtext of Whitehall's statement must be that it doesn’t want to alienate Trump before it is scheduled to leave the European Union in another two years. Yet it would be presumptuous to aver that the conference risks becoming an attempt to circumscribe US policy on Israel before the Trump team has decided on the issue. In the immediate perspective, a two-state solution becomes ever more uncertain and the roadmap in the context of the Paris round may turn out to be a non-starter. Britain’s absence has at once undermined the meeting and the formula per se. A two-state solution remains pivotal to the peace process and the conference has advanced the broad parameters though it has stopped short of suggesting that the Israel-Palestine talks be resumed.