French President Emmanuel Macron has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to refrain from annexing territory — in the West Bank and elsewhere — during a telephone call between the two leaders, Macron’s office said on Friday.
The president “emphasized that such a move would contravene international law and jeopardize the possibility of a two-state solution as the basis of a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” his office said in a statement after the Thursday call.
It was the latest move by European leaders pressing Netanyahu to drop plans to unilaterally annex the 132 settlements in the West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley, some 30 percent of the territory.
The controversial move was endorsed in an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January.
Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the premier “clarified that Israel is acting in accordance with international law and stressed that past formulas failed for 53 years and repeating them will lead to another failure.”
He said Israel was willing to negotiate on the basis of Trump’s plan and “the Palestinian refusal to negotiate on the basis of this peace plan and past plans is what’s preventing progress.”
The statement said Netanyahu and Macron also discussed responses to the coronavirus pandemic and agreed to hold joint work on the matter.
Israel’s government had set July 1 as the date when it could begin annexing, though it has yet to take steps toward that aim amid disagreements among Israeli leaders, reservations by the United States, and fierce international criticism.
The foreign ministries of France and Germany, along with those of Egypt and Jordan — the only Arab states to have peace deals with Israel — warned this week that any annexation could have “consequences” for relations.
But Macron told Netanyahu that France remained committed to Israel’s security and “expressed his attachment to the friendship and confidence that links France and Israel,” his office said.