As a multinational conference to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts convened in Paris on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again dismissed the French initiative, calling it a “pointless” endeavor that was inherently anti-Israel.
“The conference that is convening today in Paris is a pointless conference,” he told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“It was coordinated by the French and the Palestinians and aims to force conditions on Israel that conflict with our national interests,” the prime minister said.
France is hosting more than 70 countries at the Sunday summit aimed at reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The conference is expected to condemn Israeli settlement building and urge both sides to embrace a two-state solution to the conflict.
Netanyahu has previously claimed the talks were “rigged” against the Jewish state, insisting that direct bilateral talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah was the only way to negotiate a peace agreement.
At the Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu reiterated his position that the Paris-sponsored initiative makes the prospect of peace more as it “hardens Palestinians conditions and keeps them from direct negotiations.”
“I have to say that this conference is among the last remnants of the world of yesterday,” Netanyahu said. “Tomorrow will look different, and that tomorrow is very close.”
The prime minister’s remarks come days ahead of the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump, who has signaled that his administration will take a more friendly approach to the Netanyahu government’s policies.
At the opening of the Paris summit, French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said his government was committed to paving a way toward “new chances for dialogue between the parties.”
“France doesn’t have any intention other than promoting peace. The situation is such that there’s no time to waste,” he said.
Ayrault acknowledged opposition to the conference based on its timing — five days before US President-elect Donald Trump takes office, it is a final chance for the Obama administration to lay out its positions for the region — but cited last month’s UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building in saying that the issue had been pushed back to the top of the international agenda.
“This is not the moment to stop,” he said.
Unlike Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed the bid to reaffirm global support for a two-state solution, and will meet French President Francois Hollande in the coming weeks to be briefed on the conference outcome, diplomats said last week.
Paris officials said that Netanyahu declined a similar invitation.
Neither Israel nor the PA sent representatives to the parley.
On Friday, Abbas called the conference the last chance for a two-state solution, according to remarks published by French daily Le Figaro.
While many Netanyahu allies have expressed support for the prime minister’s boycott of the summit, opposition leader Isaac Herzog criticized the decision.
“Netanyahu should’ve been at the conference. Not because of its importance, which is marginal, or its ability to have an impact, but to clearly present Israel’s position on the conflict rather than fleeing from the battlefield,” he said on Sunday.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has also gone on the attack against the conference, circulating political cartoons criticizing the endeavor as a roundabout effort that avoids direct talks.
In one, a self-congratulating international community ignores a hapless Abbas dangling from a tree while Netanyahu’s apparent effort to provide a ladder is ignored. The caption implores the conference to “tell Abbas the truth” that peace requires direct talks with Israel.
— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) January 15, 2017
The other cartoon, titled “Help Abbas find peace,” shows the PA president next to a simple maze offering a direct solution to peace, and another more complicated solution that leads nowhere.
— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) January 14, 2017
In the weeks leading up to the conference, Palestinian officials warned that the moribund peace process would be dealt a further blow if Trump implements a campaign pledge to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Any attempts at legitimizing the illegal Israeli annexation of the city will destroy the prospects of any political process, bury the hopes for a two-state solution, and fuel extremism in our region, as well as worldwide,” Abbas said during a visit to the Vatican on Saturday.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.