The upcoming international peace conference in Paris is a “rigged” effort intended to hurt Israel and its hopes of reaching peace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, adding that Jerusalem was not bound by any decision that would be taken there.
“It’s a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances. This pushes peace backwards,” he said. “It’s not going to obligate us.”
During a meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende, the prime minister called the planned conference, scheduled for Sunday, “a relic of the past.”
“It’s a last gasp of the past before the future sets in,” he said.
The conference comes just five days before the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump, who is widely expected to take a more friendly approach to the Netanyahu government’s policies.
Netanyahu also called the conference an effort that would “render peace hopeless,” comparing it to a terror attack.
Brende told Netanyahu that Norway would be one of the 70 nations expected to participate in Sunday’s peace parley.
“So we will be there, but we will make sure that there is a nuanced outcome,” he said.
Israel rejects the Paris conference, arguing that real progress can only be achieved through direct bilateral talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
French President Francois Hollande said Sunday’s peace conference in Paris aims at ensuring the support of the international community for the two-state solution as a reference for future direct negotiations.
“Peace will be achieved by Israelis and Palestinians, and nobody else. Only bilateral negotiations can succeed”, Hollande said in a speech to diplomats Thursday, adding that the abandonment of the two-state solution would undermine Israel’s security.
He said the January 15 conference will push for concrete solutions to help develop energy, transportation and city infrastructure to benefit Israelis and Palestinians. French authorities are expecting 72 countries to attend the conference— but not Israel or the Palestinians.
The Palestinians, who in recent years have campaigned for the international community to assume a greater role in resolving the conflict, have welcomed the French initiative.
In recent days, Netanyahu has expressed worries that any outcome of the conference could be adopted by the United Nations Security Council. “We will do our best … so that it doesn’t happen because it pushes peace further away, because it’s unfair,” he told a senior delegation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Senior officials in the outgoing US administration have vowed to veto any Security Council resolution that tried to enshrine parameters for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The view that I’ve expressed consistently is that a resolution that outlined a final status, that would not be appropriate,” US President Barack Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 in an interview aired this week. “Because the truth is that this won’t get solved unless the Israeli people and the Palestinians want to solve it.”
On Wednesday, secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson told a Senate confirmation hearing that the text of the UN Security Council resolution embraced by the international community last month had hurt the prospects for peace.
“It would be akin, in many respects, to negotiating with someone who denies your right to exist,” he said. “Why would they ever live up to any agreement if they don’t expect you to be around? Then to force one party to the table through coercion, or however you want to describe it.”
“The most recent resolution is not useful,” he added.
UN Security Council Resolution 2334 — which passed when the United States decided not to use its veto — says the settlement project “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
Eric Cortellessa and AP contributed to this report.