Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has renewed rejection of a French peace initiative, telling the visiting French prime minister that peace cannot be forged through international conferences but only through direct negotiations.
“Peace just does not get achieved through international conferences, UN-style,” Netanyahu said on Monday at a press conference with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
Palestinian leaders say years of negotiations with Israel have not ended its occupation while they have been pursuing a strategy of diplomacy at international bodies.
An upsurge in violence since October has killed 204 Palestinians and 28 Israelis, though the unrest has steadily declined in recent weeks.
Many analysts say Palestinian frustration with Israeli occupation and settlement building in the West Bank, the complete lack of progress in peace efforts and their own fractured leadership have fed the recent unrest.
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In a short statement issued a few hours before the start of the second Passover holiday in Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu’s office insisted formally that it saw no benefit to a proposed French peace conference mooted for later this year. The announcement comes ahead of a summit of foreign ministers at the end of May in Paris where participants had been expected to try and hammer out a “political horizon” to bring the two sides together later in the summer.
“Israel adheres to its position that the best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations,” the statement read. “Israel is ready to begin them immediately without preconditions. Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from direct negotiations.”
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were to be invited to the summit on 30 May, which is expected to include some 30 countries and international organisations – including the “Quartet” of the UN, the EU, Russia and the US – though they would be expected to attended the peace conference slated for later in the summer.
“I have to be honest: I wrote a letter to Francois Hollande and expressed my shock that France had voted for a decision denying the Jewish people’s link to the Temple Mount, which spans thousands of years,” Netanyahu related. “And the reason that this vote was so troubling for us is that it implies that the Jewish people have no right to be here. And I think that remains the core of the conflict, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state in their ancestral homeland. “Peace just does not get achieved through international conferences, UN-style,” said Netanyahu. “It doesn’t get to fruition through international diktats or committees from countries around the world who are sitting and seeking to decide our fate and our security when they have no direct stake in it.
“Peace is achieved through direct negotiations between the parties and in direct negotiations, the Palestinian leadership must face a stark choice and this choice is simple: recognize the Jewish state or continue educating your people that one day Israel will be gone.”
France says the goal is to eventually restart negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu in particular has criticized the initiative and called for direct negotiations between the two sides.
While addressing the AIPAC-2016 conference in Washington, Netanyahu said:
“I was glad to hear the presidential candidates from both parties reaffirm this basic principle. Peace won’t come through UN Security Council resolutions, but through direct negotiations between the parties. The best formula for achieving peace remains two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state finally recognizes the Jewish state. Now, I know there’s some scepticism about my views on this. So let me state unequivocally, and here’s the acid test: I am ready to begin such negotiations immediately, without preconditions, anytime, anywhere. That’s a fact. But President Abbas is not ready to do so. That’s also a fact. There is political will here in Jerusalem. There’s no political will there in Ramallah”.