The French Connection & Middle East Talks

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jean-david levitte and sarkozy.jpg
(Jean-David Levitte and France President Nicolas Sarkozy)
European High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton decided to head to China instead of participating in the Middle East stakeholders dinner hosted by President Obama in the Old Family Dining Room this week.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair covered a lot of national and transnational categories as head of the Quartet — meaning theoretically that the EU, Russia, and the UN were in the room along with the US, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan.
But two notable stakeholders were absent, and President Obama’s team took care to address this by issuing a “readout” of phone conversations between himself and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and Saudi King Abdullah.
Here is the readout:

Readout of President Obama’s Recent Calls on the Middle East
President Obama called President Sarkozy earlier today to thank him for his support for a comprehensive Middle East peace, and to consult on next steps to encourage further progress in the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The President noted that he had a productive series of meetings yesterday, and said that he believed the two parties were committed to achieving progress. President Sarkozy affirmed his full support for the peace talks and his commitment to working with President Obama and the other leaders to advance the process. Both leaders agreed to remain in close touch on this issue as part of their ongoing cooperation.
Earlier in the week on Tuesday*, August 31, the President called King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to discuss the situation in the region, including direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians and the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.

I don’t know whether the Saudi King wanted to attend, but through the grapevine have learned that France’s political CEO was miffed not to be included. France takes affairs in the Middle East and what is unfolding with Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria — as well as Iran — very seriously.
An Obama-Sarkozky phone call on the fringe of this renewed effort is probably not enough, and France needs to be built in more directly. Lady Ashton has other affairs to tend to — and these make sense — but when there is a chance of securing a new equilibrium in the Middle East, France on its own merits should be a core partner.
One of the realities of the “messy status quo” that was reachieved by restarting direct peace negotiations is that Hamas remains outside the camp of those consulted. Hamas’ power and influence have grown with attempts to isolate it — and ultimately, Hamas needs to be part of the package.
While there are enormous political impediments to the US managing direct discussions with Hamas — which only contributes to a sense in the Middle East that America’s affections in this mess are one-sided — the US can “remove the veto” on other nations dealing with Hamas to see how its views and parameters can be heard or potentially moved through some kind of engagement.
In my view, the only modern day Kissinger who is operating in European foreign circles today is French national security adviser to the President Jean-David Levitte, former French Ambassador to the United States.
One senior US State Department official I discussed Levitte with and who took mental stock of the various foreign policy hands in important European positions today saw Jean-David Levitte as the only one who had both a granular understanding of equities at play in the Middle East and a good vision of where things needed to go.
There is a behind the scenes veto on our allies dealing with Hamas, and this needs to be lifted. Levitte is the right one to be working quietly and privately to see if Hamas can be brought into a structure largely consistent with that which could be forged by Netanyahu, Abbas and the others in the rather limited group trying to jump start the Middle East peace process.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “The French Connection & Middle East Talks

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I’ll be waiting”
    And waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting…………

    Reply

  2. jdledell says:

    Nadine – I don’t know where you got your information on Camp David and the Olmert deal. Please elucidate for me and the rest of the world EXACTLY what the terms of the deals were. Specifically, which settlements stayed with Israel,what land was swapped for keeping some settlements, how was Jerusalem divided, status of the Temple Mount and Al Aska Mosque, what were the conditions applicable to the Jordan border, how were water rights, air space and electro magnetic spectrum resolved, what was the nature of Palestinian demilitarization offered, how was right of return resolved, etc etc.
    I’ll be waiting.

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  3. nadine says:

    “Nadine – The municipal boundry argument is ridiculous. For example, the municipal boundries of Ma’ale Adumim extend all the way to Jericho, an area larger than Tel Aviv. The vacant land of Ma’ale Adumim alone could accomodate more than a million Israelis.”
    Likewise, the walls of the prexisting houses argument is also ridiculous — and that is the one B’Tselem feeds to the world and is repeated by the media.
    “As to your question why doesn’t Abbas make a comprehensive peace offer – I don’t know. Similarly, I don’t know why Israel does not do it either.”
    But Israel has done it, not once but twice. It is the Palestinians who have never stated their demands, not even in an offer the Israelis would be sure to turn down. Cmon jd, I think even you can figure it out if you try.

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  4. jdledell says:

    Nadine – The municipal boundry argument is ridiculous. For example, the municipal boundries of Ma’ale Adumim extend all the way to Jericho, an area larger than Tel Aviv. The vacant land of Ma’ale Adumim alone could accomodate more than a million Israelis.
    As to your question why doesn’t Abbas make a comprehensive peace offer – I don’t know. Similarly, I don’t know why Israel does not do it either. I suspect both sides think the better negotiating tactic is to wait for the other side to go first. That is the problem with all the previous peace negotiating sessions. Both sides tip toe item by item so they don’t reveal their red lines.
    The entire situation reminds me of when I was negotiating deals involving millions to billions as SVP for my company, Prudential. We had the money and the power and our partners were always smaller and thus more timid in negotiations – scared we were going to take advantage of them. Knowing that I always laid out an extremely fair offer as an opening gambit. They were shocked and suspicious but I always told them here is the fine print – I’ll give you a week to examine it and think about it. 90% of the time they came back and we only made minor changes. Only deals fair to both sides are long lasting.
    By negotiating the fine print, item by item without the big picture being clear is a recipe for negotiating disaster as emotions caused by the friction of minor details derails the bigger deal.
    In order for Israeli/Palestinian negotiations to bear fruit two big things need to be announced first. Israel agrees to a SOVEREIGN Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with EQUIVALENT land swaps and Palestinians agree to no significant right of return. Once those items are decided, the rest of the details should fall into place.

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  5. nadine says:

    As usual JohnH, you are completely ignorant and spouting total bullshit. The Palestinians have been building like crazy all over the West Bank; nobody cares.
    But then, what is to be expected of somebody who actually thinks argument by cut-and-paste is so very clever that it’s worth repeating? Instead of demonstrating that your arguments are stupid and fact-free.

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  6. JohnH says:

    More BS from Nadine. Israel’s settlement expansion gets to play by one set of rules, Palestinians living by a more restrictive set.
    According to Nadine, “B’tselem’s interpretation, that the existing footprint is defined by the walls of houses, and that it is illegal expansion of the “built-up area” if someone adds a room to his house, or builds a new house inside the security fence, is ridiculous.” But that is exactly what the Israelis government considers “illegal expansion,” if done by Palestinians, who have a more numerous and faster growing population.

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  7. observer says:

    Steve Clemens:
    When is your expected ETA for Israelis to leave West Bank and return Jerusalem to Arabs?

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  8. nadine says:

    jd, I understand their are arguments over where the existing borders of settlement are — is it the area inside security fence, or the municipal area of the settlement? But B’tselem’s interpretation, that the existing footprint is defined by the walls of houses, and that it is illegal expansion of the “built-up area” if someone adds a room to his house, or builds a new house inside the security fence, is ridiculous.
    Anyone, if the Palestinians find this so damn onerous they have a way out: let them propose their solution. I keep asking you why Abbas doesn’t propose something that sounds reasonable that he knows Bibi will refuse? He could be an instant hero, no? Why is there NEVER a Palestinian proposal? You have all the answers, answer me that.

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  9. jdledell says:

    “Dan, the agreement at Oslo was that the settlements could continue to build within their existing footprint. So “built-up area increased” means that more houses got built. It does not mean (though it tries to imply) that the footprint of the settlement increased. An increase in population density within existing borders is not the same thing as an expansion of borders.”
    Nadine – Come on you don’t really believe that nonsense do you? I have been to just about every settlement in the West Bank numererous times in the 17 years since Oslo and I can assure you the expansions have been OUT not UP!
    New “neighborhoods” of existing settlements are the euphemism that disguises this activity. My own relatives have built new homes on the outskirts of these settlements. It’s dangerous when you start believing your own lies!!!!!!!!!

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  10. samuelburke says:

    extreme, tendentious, anti-semitic, self hating jew.
    isolate and discredit.
    seriously, chinese checkers is more fun.

    Reply

  11. nadine says:

    Yeah, those maps provide a good visual definition for the word “tendentious”

    Reply

  12. samuelburke says:

    Don,that picture of historic palestine is priceless.
    what have the israelites done to justice?
    it seems that what the israelis say of the muslim will turn out being
    what the americans say about israel.
    they wanted to associate israel with judaics and by golly they will
    ultimately succeed.

    Reply

  13. rc says:

    Don Bacon, Sep 03 2010, 2:03AM — The last days is in sight for this little bait-ball it seems. Obama is just the political eunuch for the last act.

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  14. DavidT says:

    I wouldn’t be unhappy if the French could help in increasing the chances for some agreement but it sounds like your point is less about France than Hamas. On that front, that the talks continued in spite of the recent Hamas attack is to me important and a bit different from the usual reaction. If you want them involved how do you make it politically palatable to do so? Is there a Republican on the Hill who wouldn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to accuse this administration of coddling terrorist organizations, whatever you think of Hamas? If yes, who?
    Kissinger was adept but didn’t he have to deal with the realities on the ground and the politics of the situation? How much success, in looking back, did he have with this region? If he had had so much success would we be where we are now? Does he endorse including Hamas?
    Enjoyed Wigwag’s comments re: the Saudi King’s presence at the Summit and salute Steve’s acknowledgement of their veracity (“right testicle” huh? would like to hear the president pit it that way).

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  15. nadine says:

    Dan, the agreement at Oslo was that the settlements could continue to build within their existing footprint. So “built-up area increased” means that more houses got built. It does not mean (though it tries to imply) that the footprint of the settlement increased. An increase in population density within existing borders is not the same thing as an expansion of borders. So you stop being a moron about it.
    This 42% is simply counting all of Area B and C as “barred to Palestinians” which is not accurate either, and would be news to the Palestinians inside those areas. Nor is it to the point, as the offer at Taba would have given these areas too into full PA control. It couldn’t possibly be a “land grab” if it’s been given back, now is it?
    You still haven’t answered my question: why doesn’t Abbas put forth his version of the Taba offer and make himself a hero of the peace process? If he can count on Bibi to say no, what’s the risk?

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  16. Don Bacon says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words.
    http://tinyurl.com/y8a6wpp

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  17. Dan Kervick says:

    “I don’t know why you keep going on an on about the Israelis colonizing the West Bank when the settlements are only 4% of the West Bank, and have not expanded their footprint since Oslo.”
    Stop pretending you’re a moron, Nadine. Israel’s colonies include (i) areas that are already built up, (ii) areas within the jurisdiction of the settlements that are not yet built up, but from which Palestinians are legally barred, and (iii) areas within the jurisdiction of regional councils, but not in the jurisdiction of any particular settlement, and from which Palestinians are also legally barred. All told, those areas now comprise 42% of the West Bank.
    And the built-up areas on which settlement construction stands certainly has expanded since Oslo, as can be gleaned from this B’tselem report:
    http://www.btselem.org/Download/201007_By_Hook_and_by_Crook_Eng.pdf
    Note the following passage in the report:
    “To illustrate the expansion of the settlements, we examined the three largest settlements in the
    West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem)

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  18. Dan Kervick says:

    “Which Washington are you talking about, Dan?”
    The one that actually constitutes the several branches of our government, not the various groups of pundits who happen to live and talk there.

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  19. Don Bacon says:

    The top US diplomat, Hillary Clinton, is charge of these “negotiations.” I rest my case.

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  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “This little peace process Broadway show won’t have a long run. The talks will eventually produce the failure they are designed to produce. Obama and Netanyahu will team up to blame the Palestinians for their intransigence. The Israelis will get a bright, green light to keep expanding, and Obama will get a little 2011-12 electoral boost from center-left Jewish voters who can easily be persuaded that he gave it the old college try”
    It has been a very satisfying experience watching Dan discover reality. He’s come a long ways these past two years.
    Welcome to Earth, Dan. Ya had me worried for a while there.

    Reply

  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “It seems intentionally designed to fail”
    Bingo. But the “failure” will be touted as a success, with bullshit flowing hot and heavy from our State Department.
    We all know where this is leading. It is one more charade, with the closing act being the predictable false “concessions” from this fascist fuck Netanyahu, and some sort of “incident” from the Palestinians that casts them as the spoilers.
    The United States CANNOT mediate this process. “Send in the clowns” is a fitting description of this current con-job. Are our leaders REALLY so feckless that they think the global community is buying this shit?? Our leaders are making world class asholes of themselves with this buffoonish display of insincere mediation.
    I never though I’d be so ashamed of my nation and its leaders. We really are being captained by a bunch of sleazy lying posturing pieces of shit.

    Reply

  22. JohnH says:

    Who is Barry Rubin? And is his opinion anything but Israeli propaganda?
    And the French? A former colonial power. They never seem to tire of meddling in the ME, initiating the crusades and causing trouble through Napoleon’s misadventure in Egypt and the failed mandates in Syria and Lebanon. Give them credit for trying, but don’t count on their making any valuable contribution.
    And Sarkozy? Anyone really take him seriously?

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  23. Don Bacon says:

    Thanks, nadine. Barry Rubin never ceases to amuse:
    “. . .the Obama Administration was in radical mode, determined to distance itself from Israel. . .A measure of reality eventually set in, involving a large number of factors ranging from the lack of Arab cooperation, to Iran

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  24. Dan Kervick says:

    ” … the US can “remove the veto” on other nations dealing with Hamas to see how its views and parameters can be heard or potentially moved through some kind of engagement.”
    The most reasonable conclusion to draw from the US approach so far is that Washington and Jerusalem have agreed that they do not *want* Hamas’s views, parameters, suggestions, demands or random thoughts to be either heard or moved, in any way, shape or form. I think one has to be pretty naive to imagine that Washington would secretly like to include Hamas, and would do so were it not for the “political impediments.”
    As for the invitations, it seems apparent from the Brazil-Turkey initiative re: Iran that Obama insists on getting star billing as Le Grand Fromage where Middle East affairs are concerned, and doesn’t want any potentially talkative and competing rivals getting big ideas and grabbing any of his limelight. That’s why the White House dinner lineup was composed of has-beens and second fiddlers. If Sarkobruni were involved, you can bet that before long he would be positioning himself as the voice of the sane center between the Washington-Jerusalem axis on the one side and the Arabs on the other – and no doubt effectively, since it would be a very easy case to make.
    This peace process is not just likely to fail. It seems intentionally designed to fail. It is literally impossible to imagine Mahmoud Abbas getting an offer that he could personally accept and also sell to the whole Palestinian people. He just doesn’t command that kind of stature and sway over the whole people. It is just as impossible to imagine Binyamin Netanyahu and the ultra-rejectionist Likud party offering anything that fair-minded people would regard as a real-life Palestinian state, and that does not just consist in a creative re-labeling of the territorial status quo.
    My reading is that Washington and Jerusalem have a deal to keep Gaza separate from the rest of Palestine in perpetuity, and to slice, dice and re-package the portion of the West Bank that is not colonized yet into some kind of Arab Quarter under Israeli suzerainty. That’s why Netanyahu is all smiles lately. The Palestinians are too weak to resist anything that Israel decides to do, so long as more powerful countries don’t stand in Israel’s way. Now that Israel has effectively tamed and trained Obama, the path to total ultimate victory is clear.
    This little peace process Broadway show won’t have a long run. The talks will eventually produce the failure they are designed to produce. Obama and Netanyahu will team up to blame the Palestinians for their intransigence. The Israelis will get a bright, green light to keep expanding, and Obama will get a little 2011-12 electoral boost from center-left Jewish voters who can easily be persuaded that he gave it the old college try.

    Reply

  25. WigWag says:

    The question of a veto on the allies interaction with Hamas is an interesting one.
    Steve says, “There is a behind the scenes veto on our allies dealing with Hamas, and this needs to be lifted…”
    But does anyone really believe that President Sarkozy or the leader of any of the other European nation wouldn’t be perfectly happy to defy the Americans on this if they wanted to?
    And given their less than warm relations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, does anyone really believe that the French and the other European nations don’t engage Hamas out of fear of antagonizing the Israelis? After all, despite Israeli sentiments they’ve reached out to Hezbollah.
    The real reason the French and the other Europeans don’t reach out to Hamas has little to do with what the Americans want and nothing to do with what the Israelis want. It has everything to do with what President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority wants.
    Sarkozy knows perfectly well that if he reached out to Hamas, Abbas and his PA colleagues would go ballistic and it would result in a rupture with the Palestinian Authority that might be permanent. After all, no one hates Hamas more than Abbas and his colleagues do.
    The veto that matters on the Europeans forging relations with Hamas comes not from Prime Minister Netanyahu nor from President Obama; it comes from President Abbas.

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  26. Steve Clemons says:

    Wig — you are right of course about the Saudi King — except that
    the King’s Arab Peace proposal remains a significant part of the
    mix, and there have been high level Saudis and Israelis and others
    from the Middle East at joint summits in the past. But about your
    central point, I certainly concede.
    all best, steve

    Reply

  27. nadine says:

    “There is a behind the scenes veto on our allies dealing with Hamas, and this needs to be lifted. Levitte is the right one to be working quietly and privately to see if Hamas can be brought into a structure largely consistent with that which could be forged by Netanyahu, Abbas and the others in the rather limited group trying to jump start the Middle East peace process”
    …because engagement has such a good track record in turning radical violent Islamists into moderates willing to forego jihad for diplomatic negotiation, right?
    It would sound a little less silly if you could name one success for this policy anywhere. How’s the moderation of Hizbullah going? Seems to me that that they have merely split the ownership of Lebanon between themselves and Syria. Maybe you have a secret success with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to boast of?
    You engage with radical Islamists, it’s around their principles, not yours. Their marching orders come from Allah and are not very flexible.
    The whole charade is cooked up think-tank silliness which at best will kill a few score innocent people; at worst, it will set off a new regional war between Israel and Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria.

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  28. WigWag says:

    “I don’t know whether the Saudi King wanted to attend…” (Steve Clemons)
    With all due respect, Steve, these may be the silliest 10 words I have ever read at the Washington Note.
    Of course the Saudi King didn’t want to attend and you know it perfectly well. If the Saudi King had wanted to attend, he would have attended. It’s perfectly obvious that President Obama would have given his left testicle (figuratively speaking) to get the Saudi King or one of his mignons to sit at a table with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the others.
    Why the games? Everyone knows that under the current circumstances the Saudi King would never attend a meeting with an Israeli Prime Minister. When it comes to Israel, Saudi Arabia prefers to keeps its contacts surreptitious. Things like rooting for the Israelis to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon or begging the Israelis to attack Hamas in Gaza are fine. So is opening Saudi airspace for an Israeli attack on Iran.
    But as you surely fully comprehend, the Saudi King would never actually break bread with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

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  29. WigWag says:

    “European High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton decided to head to China instead of participating in the Middle East stakeholders dinner hosted by President Obama in the Old Family Dining Room this week.” (Steve Clemons)
    I’m not sure why you feel the need to speak euphemistically Steve, you

    Reply

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