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This week, the French government, which has long tried to help broker a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, will launch its latest attempt with an international conference in Paris. The summit has made headlines not because of its substance but because of its unusual format: neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were invited. Instead, officials from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East will gather to lay the groundwork for future direct talks between the two parties on a two-state solution.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as other Israeli officials, contend that little good can come from a multilateral initiative that excludes Israel. Netanyahu argues that only direct negotiations can resolve the conflict, and has countered with an offer to resume bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians.
But for the Palestinians, the conference represents a twofold victory. For one thing, it shrinks the role of the United States