Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Monday with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to discuss the French initiative to restart the stalled Israel-Palestinian negotiations, which Israel has repeatedly rejected.
Netanyahu stated that while Israel rejected the French initiative because it gave the Palestinians an incentive not to compromise with Israel, he was willing to meet Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas for direct negotiations in Paris.
Noting the “disagreements” Israel and France are having on the “best way to achieve peace,” Netanyahu said he “deeply” appreciates France’s commitment to pursue it.
France is offering to hold an international summit to discuss possible solutions, while not inviting Israel and the Palestinians, at least not at the initial stages. Israel rejects any method of negotiations accept direct ones with the Palestinians, who have declared they will never do so directly with Israel.
While conceding that prospects of direct talks are slim at this time, Netanyahu said they are “the only way to proceed towards peace. Peace just does not get achieved through international conferences, UN-style. 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.”
The Palestinian leadership must face a stark choice, Netanyahu stated, which is to recognize the Jewish state or “continue educating your people that one day Israel will be gone. It will create a Palestinian state not to live side-by-side next to Israel, but to eliminate Israel.”
He urged the French not to let the Palestinian leadership “shirk this difficult choice. The Palestinian leadership doesn’t see the French initiative as an inducement to compromise, but rather as a way to avoid it. In fact, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, let slip the other day his hope for an imposed timetable, rather than a negotiated peace.”
Netanyahu added he is prepared to “make difficult decisions.”
If France wants to help launch peace, “then help us launch direct negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas,” he told Valls.
“And that’s why I would gladly accept a different French initiative, and here’s the one important change. This initiative can still take place in Paris, because that would be a marvelous place to sign a peace accord. It’s a marvelous place anyway. It can still be called the French initiative, because you would host this genuine effort for peace, but here’s the difference: I will sit alone directly with President Abbas in the Élysée Palace, or anywhere else that you choose. Every difficult issue will be on the table: mutual recognition, incitement, borders, refugees and yes, settlements – everything,” Netanyahu stated, saying Israel was eager to achieve peace.
Valls’ visit to Israel was preceded by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s visit last Sunday.
The French have been pushing hard to proceed with their peace initiative, but Israel says that direct negotiations, without preconditions, are the best way to reach a final agreement and that “any other attempt only makes peace more remote and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict.”
By: Max Gelber, United with Israel
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