PM Netanyahu (R) and French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave. (AP/Thomas Coex) (AP/Thomas Coex)
Netanyahu and French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave

After months of reports and speculation, France has finally presented its plan to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu called the initiative “mystifying” as France has threatened that if its diplomatic efforts fail, it will unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.

France has presented Israel and the Palestinians with a proposal for an international peace conference in Paris in the summer, the sides said Tuesday.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said France’s ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave met with the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Alon Ushpiz on Tuesday, but declined to provide details or discuss whether Israel would participate in the conference.

In a statement, Nahshon reiterated Israel’s support for “direct negotiations with the Palestinians,” adding that Israel “opposes attempts to predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”

He was relating to a Monday statement by Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Al-Malki that the Palestinians will “never again” engage Israel in direct negotiations towards a final diplomatic resolution to their dispute with Israel.

“We will never go back and sit again in a direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” he stated while on a visit to Japan with Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the statement, Ushpiz also brought up recent Palestinian terrorism during the meeting, as well as the incitement to hatred and violence that has fanned it, and pointed to the need to continue fighting it.

France has for months been preparing to hold a conference that would bring together the two parties and their American, European and Arab partners in order to revive the peace process.

While the Palestinians declaratively welcomed the proposal, the conference does not seem to be generating much enthusiasm from Israel or the international community, which is struggling to cope with far deadlier Middle East conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

The French proposal has also been accompanied by veiled threats of international pressure on Israel and unilateral moves if Israel does not comply with the French demands.

Palestinian official Ahmad Majdalani said France presented general ideas but no specifics about its plan. Still, he said, the Palestinians support the initiative, countering explicit statements by his foreign minister made only a day before.

He said a support group is expected to emerge from the conference which would help guide the negotiations. The Palestinians are hoping that Israel encounters heavy international pressure, while they concede nothing in direct negotiations, which they have been systematically avoiding.

A French diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details of the proposal have not been publicized, said his country hopes to hold the conference this summer.

Washington, which has traditionally acted as a peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has not taken a public position on the French plan and appears to be waiting to hear more details.

The last peace negotiations, mediated by US Secretary of State John Kerry, collapsed in April 2014, and the period since has been fraught with Palestinian terrorism.

France has threatened that if its diplomatic efforts fail, it will unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state. Israel says such a move provides an incentive for the Palestinians to refuse to compromise or negotiate directly. It insists a Palestinian state can only come about through direct negotiations, which the Palestinians consistently refuse to enter.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff