(Stephane de Sakutin/Pool Photo via AP)
French Peace Initiative

Israel reacted sharply to the European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers’ endorsement of the French peace initiative on Monday, saying it was a ‘regrettable step backwards in the pursuit of peace to which Israel remains fully committed.’

In a statement, the 28-member EU Council said it “welcomes” the French initiative. “The Council reiterates its support for a just, sustainable and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace and stability in the region.”

“The EU is determined, alongside other international and regional partners, to bring a concrete and substantial contribution to a global set of incentives for the parties to make peace with a view to an international conference planned to be held before the end of the year,” the statement added.

The French initiative entails indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with international arbitration and an international resolution to pressure Israel into concessions that could hinder its security.

France held an international summit at the beginning of June to discuss possible solutions, while Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to attend it. No real conclusion was reached at the summit, while diplomats nevertheless vowed vaguely to reinvigorate a peace process that has been all but dead for two years due to Palestinian intransigence.

Israel has pledged to pursue peace and has repeatedly stated that the only way to achieve peace is through direct negotiations. At the same time, Palestinian leaders won’t engage in direct talks with Israel and have vowed to never again do so.

“Peace with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations with no preconditions,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in statement on Monday in reaction to the EU’s endorsement of the French initiative.

“International conferences, like the one welcomed by the European Council, drive peace further away by allowing the Palestinians to continue avoiding both direct negotiations and compromise,” Israel charged.

“This is a regrettable step backwards in the pursuit of peace to which Israel remains fully committed,” the statement concluded.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Europe next week to discuss other options for resolving the conflict.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel