Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the French initiative to hold an international peace conference is “baffling” and bound for failure, casting doubt on the first push for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in nearly two years.
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. France has warned that if its peace efforts fail, it will recognize a Palestinian state.
Speaking in Berlin at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Netanyahu said he could not understand how the French could say in advance they would recognize a Palestinian state if the peace conference fails.
They do not know whether that state may turn into yet another dictatorship in the region; whether that state “really intended to end the conflict” with Israel and “recognize the “state of the Jews”; and whether there will be security arrangements in that state to prevent Hamas, Islamic State or both from taking over land from which Israel might withdraw.
“Obviously this ensures that a conference will fail,” Netanyahu said. “Because if the Palestinians know that their conditions will be accepted, and they don’t have to do anything [to compromise], then certainly there is an internal contradiction and they will not do anything.”
Netanyahu’s comments followed a meeting of French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave with Alon Ushpiz, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for political affairs, in Yerushalayim earlier in the day. Maisonnave presented him with details of the French plan, which calls for a peace conference in Paris in the summer. This meeting would be preceded by a meeting of an international support group, without Israeli and Palestinian participation, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, welcomed the proposal, but 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.
Palestinian official Ahmad Majdalani said French officials had not discussed specifics about their country’s plan. Still, he said the Palestinians support the initiative. He said he expected an international group would be formed after the conference to support the negotiations.
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.