Israel rejects French ultimatum: ‘This isn’t how one makes peace’

French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for photographers at the Elysee Palace, Paris, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Thibault Camus)

Israel moved quickly Friday to reject what it sees as a new French ultimatum on recognition of a Palestinian state. The Palestinians, however, welcomed the French initiative.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced earlier in the day that France would shortly try to convene an international conference, with the hope of enabling new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but that if this effort reached a dead end, Paris would recognize a Palestinian state.

“And what will happen if this last-ditch attempt at reaching a negotiated solution hits a stumbling block?” Fabius said. “In that case, we will have to live up to our responsibilities and recognize a Palestinian state.”

Israel rejected the approach. “This is not how one conducts negotiations and not how one makes peace,” an Israeli official was quoted by the Hebrew daily Haaretz as saying.

An unnamed American official also cautiously rejected the French proposal, according to Reuters. “The US position on this issue has been clear. We continue to believe that the preferred path to resolve this conflict is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly,” the official said.

The Israeli response was criticized by MK Omer Bar-Lev of the opposition Zionist Union party. “With no policy and no initiative Israel finds itself cornered,” Bar Lev said in comments carried by the Walla news website.

“Instead of some official responding to France’s initiative to hold an international conference to promote a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the time has come for the prime minister and foreign minister of Israel to present a clear policy,” Bar Lev said, referring to the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also holds the foreign ministry portfolio. “What is Netanyahu’s diplomatic plan? It seems that if he cannot formulate one, he should step down and allow someone worthier to lead the state,” he said.

Meanwhile, senior PLO official Saeb Erekat, who oversaw years of talks with Israel, said the Palestinians “commend the French idea to promote serious international involvement in an effort to end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.”

Erekat said the Palestinians will begin contacting various nations in coming days to promote the French initiative.

UAE vice president and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (R), meets with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (C) at his palace in Dubai on January 18, 2016. (AFP / KARIM SAHIB)

UAE vice president and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (R), meets with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (C) at his palace in Dubai on January 18, 2016. (AFP / KARIM SAHIB)

Announcing the plan, Fabius said his country has a responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to sustain efforts to reach a two-state solution.

“France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners, American, European, Arab, notably to preserve and make happen the solution of two states,” Fabius said, according to Reuters.

Paris is hoping to hold the conference in the summer.

The Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said earlier Friday that Palestinian Authority officials are waging a new campaign at the UN to revive peace prospects, with the starting point possibly a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

“We will not accept that the year 2016 is a year when we cannot do anything,” Mansour told reporters.

“We have to open some doors to keep the hope alive and keep the two-state solution alive.”


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