Sat 02 Dec 2023 3:19 pm - Jerusalem Time

France is unable to find its place in the Gaza war

French researcher: “France and Macron are unable to find their position to influence the course of the war between Israel and Hamas.”

Report by the French Agency:

French President Emmanuel Macron had hoped to build on the “dynamics” of the truce between Israel and Hamas to promote his country’s positions and begin shaping the post-war landscape, but his arrival at the United Nations climate conference held in Dubai coincided with the resumption of fighting in Gaza.

The end of the truce that was reached with Qatari mediation, supported by Egypt and the United States, and which allowed for the release of Hamas hostages, hindered his efforts during a trip that embodied the difficulty facing the French president, to find a way to influence this major international crisis.

On Friday, Macron held meetings on the sidelines of the climate conference (COP28) with a number of leaders concerned with the conflict that broke out following an unprecedented attack launched by Hamas on October 7th against Israel, which responded with violent and continuous bombardment of Gaza until the announcement of a truce on 24th of November.

During his meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, Macron called for the truce to be resumed as soon as possible in the hope that this would lead to a permanent ceasefire.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Friday, "We demand the resumption of the truce. This is necessary. It is necessary to continue the release of hostages... as well as to bring more humanitarian aid" into Gaza.

She added to journalists that resuming the truce is also necessary “to continue thinking about what comes next... to restore the political horizon and return concrete discussions to the table on how to strengthen the Palestinian Authority” so that it can take over the administration of the Gaza Strip in the future “and achieve the two-state solution” as it is the only one “viable” application,” she said.

During his meetings with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Emirati Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Jordanian King Abdullah II, and under public pressure in the face of the killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians, Macron nevertheless stressed the need to clearly condemn Hamas’ actions, and tried to coordinate humanitarian operations.

Finally, Macron informed Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati that it is in Hezbollah’s interest to exercise restraint to avoid a regional escalation, according to what was reported by the French president’s circles.

Macron is scheduled to make a quick visit on Saturday evening to Qatar, where he will have dinner with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the small Gulf state that is leading the truce negotiations and the release of the hostages.

Macron was supposed to undertake a broader tour in the Middle East, but in the end the Elysee considered that the presence of a large number of those concerned with the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Dubai would make the conference a diplomatic meeting at the same time.

But expectations from the visit were partly frustrated. The influential Saudi Crown Prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Macron was scheduled to meet during the conference, did not attend the Emirates neighboring his country. It was not possible to hold a meeting between Macron and a number of Arab leaders at the same time, although the French President had hoped for this, as a meeting of this kind would allow him to convey his message more strongly.

As for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, they did not come to Dubai. Macron's program does not include a visit to Israel or Ramallah.

Agnès Levallois of the Institute for Research and Studies on the Mediterranean and the Middle East believes that “France and Macron are unable to really find their place in this crisis.”

It indicates that the president lost some of his credibility when, at the end of October, he launched from Jerusalem, without paving the way, the idea of including Arab countries in an international coalition to fight Hamas. She noted that, after being criticized for his clear bias in favor of Israel, his call to “stop” bombing civilians may have strained his relationship with Netanyahu.

The researcher considers that the search for balance “based on reactions” confuses his strategy.

Emmanuel Macron is currently facing two difficulties

On the Israeli side, French diplomats do not hide their concern about the military operations that also target areas of the southern Gaza Strip, contrary to Tel Aviv’s pledge that these will be “safe” areas for civilians. They also raise questions about the Israeli authorities' pledge to "eliminate" Hamas, fearing that this would lead, without a targeted operation, to more civilian casualties.

France is searching for a formula to strengthen the faltering Palestinian Authority

But in both cases, Paris does not have the means of pressure. As for the two-state solution that I so strongly advocated, no one really sees the path to achieving it.

“Emmanuel Macron cannot achieve this alone,” Levallois asserts.

She added, "On the other hand, Europe has powerful means of influence, and there is a real card in Europe's hand that it can present," expressing her regret for not using them at this stage.


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France is unable to find its place in the Gaza war