PARIS — The French capital has hosted its share of peace conferences. Israelis might remember three editions of the Middle East Peace Conference in 2016 and 2017, hosted by President Francois Holland. Jerusalem under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boycotted all three, and when French President Emmanuel Macron was elected in 2017, he ignored the diplomatic failure. The Paris Peace Forum, now it its fifth edition, is a different story.
Its success owes to the goals set by founder and organizer Justin Vaisse. His idea was not to directly tackle international conflicts, but rather offer an international arena for dialogue between a multitude of both private and civil society actors. The main theme of the forum is global governance.
The Middle East is well represented at the two-day forum. Jordanian Queen Rania opened the conference this morning. Other senior figures include Emirati Culture Minister Noura Al-Kaabi and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. Israel, alas, is not officially represented.
In the first years of the forum, Jerusalem feared that become a sort of an unofficial multinational negotiation platform for the conflict with the Palestinians. Reassurances by the organizers apparently didn’t change Jerusalem’s mind. This year, the embassy explained to the organizers that with the Israeli elections and with a new government yet to be established, the forum was not a good fit. An Israeli diplomat told Al-Monitor that with Netanyahu back in power, it is highly unlikely Israel will engage in the initiative.
Israeli officials' was not the only conspicuous absence. The organizers note that no Israeli nongovernmental groups applied to present their projects at the forum. Israeli political skepticism seems to have spilled over Israel’s civil society.
Vaisse explained to Al-Monitor that shortly after the last elections in France, the organizers opened registration this year to projects in the realm of global governance. Amid all the submissions, they selected dozens of projects, such as the Peace by Africa Civil Society Network and the Global Index on Responsible Artificial Intelligence.
Alongside artificial intelligence projects, there are also a host of other initiatives that could also interest Israelis, such as Cultural Corridors of Peace, which "uses the memory of Bedouin nomadic routes to forge cultural pathways to peace and post-conflict collaboration across the MENA region," reads the website. A round table dedicated to empowering women hosted young women from across the Middle East.
An Emirati participant told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity he regretted that Israel did not participate in the forum. "We, the young generation, keep seeking platforms to enlarge dialogue with Israelis and with other partners across the Middle East and Africa. It at is this kind of forums, where you talk not about the conflicts but about solutions, that we must meet and work together."