Israeli PM slams French peace initative

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the French efforts to organise a peace summit to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, saying peace is not achieved with international conferences.

Netanyahu made the comments during a ceremony at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine in northern Israel’s Galilee, Xinhua reported.

“The way to peace does not go through international conferences that seek to impose agreements, make the Palestinians’ demands more extreme and thereby make peace more remote,” the prime minister said, according to a statement from his office.

He reiterated his position that the only way to achieve peace is through direct talks “without preconditions”.

The comments are made prior to a planned meeting of various international foreign ministers on Friday, in order to discuss the French initiative. No Israeli or Palestinian representative will be present in this forum. Another conference is in the works for the upcoming fall.

A week ago, Netanyahu told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls during the latter’s visit to Jerusalem to advance the summit, that he will be willing to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in person in Paris or anywhere else, stressing again the preference of direct talks over the planned summit.

French officials announced the initiative, which would seek to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, in January, to the ire of Israeli officials, and the support of Palestinian leaders.

On Monday, following the swearing-in of hawkish lawmaker Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister, he and Netanyahu both said they support the two-state solution, with Lieberman lauding a speech recently given by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the need to restart talks with the involvement of Arab states, including Egypt, based on the 2002 Saudi Arabia peace proposal.

The proposal says that in exchange for peace between the two sides, other Arab countries would normalise their ties with Israel.

Israel occupied the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip territories in the 1967 Mideast War. The last round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians took place between July 2013 and April 2014 with the mediation of the US, and ended abruptly without results.

International calls to restart peace talks come amid an ongoing wave of violence which started in October and claimed the lives of 28 Israelis and 204 Palestinians.