France is hoping to bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas together in the framework of a larger conference on the war against terrorism, a TV report said Monday.
According to a Channel 2 report citing unnamed officials, the French are planning to soon hold an international conference on the fight against terrorism and global jihad, to which both Netanyahu and Abbas will be invited.
There was no immediate confirmation of the report from Israeli, Palestinian or French officials.
The French hope is that on the sidelines of such a summit, Netanyahu and Abbas will agree to also meet one another and restart dialogue that may then grow into substantive peace negotiations.
France has tried several times to take an active role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, irritating Washington, which pursues a resolution to the decades-long dispute as a diplomatic holy grail.
In November, Netanyahu and Abbas shook hands publicly for the first time in some five years, during a photo shoot for the Paris climate summit.
The two were also both at a solidarity rally in Paris in the wake of a string of attacks in January of last year, but avoided meeting each other publicly.
In October, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius tried to arrange a meeting between the world leaders to calm tensions over the Temple Mount, but was rebuffed by Abbas, according to reports.
The two leaders had not met openly since holding dead-end peace talks in 2010. Netanyahu claims he will meet Abbas without preconditions, while Abbas says Israel must freeze settlement building and commit to other obligations before a sit-down.
Last week, Abbas told Israeli journalists his office had tried to broker a meeting, but was ignored by Netanyahu’s bureau.
Jerusalem has chafed recently at a French UN Security Council proposal that calls for a timetable to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
In June last year, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely attacked the peace initiative as “counterproductive.” In an interview with French daily Le Figaro, Hotovely warned the French peace initiative “will not improve the situation” and will likely “aggravate the situation on the ground.”
“It’s clear to the Israeli public – left and right – that direct negotiations between the two sides is the only way to solve the problem,” Hotovely said. “We see that Palestinian leaders, with the encouragement of certain countries, have tried for several years to internationalize the conflict through a very dangerous process, not just for Israel but for them.”
Palestinian officials and French diplomats have said the proposal would call for basing the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state on the lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six Day War.
It also would set a two-year deadline for an agreement. Israel rejects a return to its pre-1967 lines, saying they are indefensible. It also opposes imposed deadlines.
In August 2015, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that the French-sponsored UN Security Council bid to restart peace talks in the region was sunk by Israeli and American opposition.
Malki said at the time that the US refused to deal with the issue until after Congress voted on the Iran nuclear deal, then still pending. He added that the Palestinians were working to harness French support to condemn Israel at the Security Council as a basis to jumpstart the talks.