Last month, the French government convened an international meeting to revive the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”.

Yet by calling for direct negotiations without offering any new ideas of either a substantive or a procedural nature, the initiative is bound to fail. Its flaws might be corrected, but only by ending the conflict’s status as a virtually law-free zone.

Deja-vu-Moving-on-from-the-French-peace-initiative

The initiative’s detractors are far more numerous than the dignitaries who showed up. Critics note that the initiative comes at an unpromising moment when there are other international priorities. That is true but does not go far enough: the moment of opportunity for such an initiative passed nearly two decades ago. And the problems go beyond timing.

The effort to revive a dimly remembered “peace process” is based on plugging some holes that were left in the series of Israeli-Palestinian bilateral agreements negotiated in the 1990s. For all their details, the agreements were silent on almost all critical issues, leaving them to further bilateral negotiations.

No real mechanism

Far from supporting a “two-state solution”, they were worded to avoid any reference to statehood.

They contained no real mechanism for resolving disputes, and no timeline other than the promise of agreement by 1999.

The French initiative now seeks to close some gaps: it clearly endorses a two-state solution; it is based on deadlines and stages more robust than Oslo’s vague timeline; and it is anchored in international diplomacy with an implicit threat of a Security Council resolution.

Although these are all steps in the right direction, they are neither bold nor new: all have been taken unsuccessfully many times before – the 2003 Road Map; the 2007 Annapolis Conference; and the Kerry Initiative of 2014 all dabbled with such measures.┬áThese initiatives were all based on buttressing bilateral diplomacy.

But besides bilateralism, there is also a robust international framework that already exists – but the approach of Israel and the United States has been to shove it aside on the claim that it should not be a substitute for direct negotiations.

Although the French initiative makes some reference to UN Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, it does not make any reference to the Geneva Conventions or other aspects of international law.

This is probably a response to two allergies. On the one hand, the Israelis insist – as one might expect of the stronger parties in negotiations – that there is no substitute for direct negotiations

Although these are all steps in the right direction, they are neither bold nor new: all have been taken unsuccessfully many times before – the 2003 Road Map; the 2007 Annapolis Conference; and the Kerry Initiative of 2014 all dabbled with such measures.┬áThese initiatives were all based on buttressing bilateral diplomacy.

But besides bilateralism, there is also a robust international framework that already exists – but the approach of Israel and the United States has been to shove it aside on the claim that it should not be a substitute for direct negotiations.

Although the French initiative makes some reference to UN Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, it does not make any reference to the Geneva Conventions or other aspects of international law.

This is probably a response to two allergies. On the one hand, the Israelis insist – as one might expect of the stronger parties in negotiations – that there is no substitute for direct negotiations