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Netanyahu: French bid rewards Palestinian intransigence

PM says Paris threat to recognize state if talks fail is a win-win for Palestinians; PA official: Israel will benefit from negotiations

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on January 31, 2016. (AFP/Pool/Amir Cohen)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on January 31, 2016. (AFP/Pool/Amir Cohen)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday took France to task for its latest Israeli-Palestinian peace talks pitch, saying the proposal would spur Palestinian inflexibility by guaranteeing recognition of a Palestinian state in advance.

“This will be an incentive for the Palestinians to come and not compromise,” Netanyahu said of the proposal in a press briefing before the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had announced Friday that France would shortly try to convene an international conference with the hope of enabling new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but that if the effort hit a dead end, Paris would recognize a Palestinian state regardless.

“The substance of negotiations is compromise and the French initiative, as it has been reported, in effect gives the Palestinians in advance reasons not to do so,” Netanyahu said, adding that he expected the French to take their peace-making efforts seriously. “I believe that we will see a sobering up on this issue. In any case, we will work to bring this about and our position is very clear: We are prepared to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions and without dictated conditions.”

Senior Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat, for years the PA’s top negotiator with Israel, said Sunday that successful talks would be a boon for Israel and the Palestinians.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (YouTube screen capture)
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (YouTube screen capture)

“I think if we succeed it is a win for both of us,” Erekat told Army Radio, blaming the moribund state of negotiations on Netanyahu’s government.

“This Israeli government believes that that establishment of a Palestinian state is a losing situation for Israel,” he said. “That is the crux of the matter, that is the crux of the problem.”

When challenged over the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Erekat countered that the Palestinians had already recognized Israel within the 1967 borders.

“You are registered in the United Nations as the State of Israel and that is your name,” he said. “We have already recognized Israel’s right to exist in the 1967 border in peace and security. I pray and hope that the day will come when I will hear one Israeli official from this government say that we recognize the right of the State of Palestinian to exist in peace and security in the 1967 lines. Stop with this broken record of yours.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks on the phone as he arrives for a conference on Syria in Vienna on November 14, 2015, a day after 130 people were killed in terror attacks in Paris. (AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks on the phone as he arrives for a conference on Syria in Vienna on November 14, 2015, a day after 130 people were killed in terror attacks in Paris. (AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR)

In announcing the plan, Fabius said his country has a responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to sustain efforts to reach a two-state solution.

“France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners, American, European, Arab, notably to preserve and make happen the solution of two states,” he said.

Paris is hoping to hold the conference in the summer.

“And what will happen if this last-ditch attempt at reaching a negotiated solution hits a stumbling block?” Fabius said. “In that case, we will have to live up to our responsibilities and recognize a Palestinian state.”

The Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said earlier Friday that Palestinian Authority officials are waging a new campaign at the UN to revive peace prospects, with the starting point possibly a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

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