Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told French premier Emmanuel Macron on Monday that he was skeptical about the potential of US President Donald Trump’s initiative to bring peace to the region.
During talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Macron told Netanyahu that he supported Trump’s efforts and that recent Israeli moves to advance settlement building only made an already complicated situation more difficult, according to the Haaretz newspaper, which cited diplomatic sources.
Although the two leaders spent less than five minutes on the issue, Macron reportedly asked Netanyahu what he wanted to do to take the peace process forward.
Netanyahu reportedly pulled out a color-coded Middle East map, showing how the various states were aligned, along with the same video he had shown to Trump about anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media.
It was that video which reportedly prompted Trump to yell at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in May and to accuse him of direct involvement in incitement against Israel.
Breaking: @realDonaldTrump shouted at Abbas in Bethlehem: You tricked me in DC! The Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement
— Udi Segal (@usegal) May 28, 2017
According to the paper, Netanyahu told Macron that “the Palestinian issue is complicated,” and when Macron told him that he was making it “more complicated by building more and more in the settlements,” the prime minister retorted that much of the construction was in settlement blocs that Israel would retain in any peace agreement.
He also reportedly said that even if a peace deal were signed, he would not evacuate settlements but rather allow Jews there to live in a Palestinian state.
On the subject of Trump’s attempts to move the peace process forward, Macron said there was “an opportunity for peace.” Netanyahu said he thought the opportunity lay more with Israel’s relationships with its Sunni Arab neighbors and said he was interested in a “parallel” process — one with the Sunni states and the other with the Palestinians, the newspaper report claimed.
The diplomatic sources quoted Netanyahu saying, “It will be complicated to move quickly with the American plan. I don’t know if Abbas can supply the goods because of his internal politics. But we will cooperate with Trump’s move.”
The sources said the Israeli prime minister left the talks in high spirits and without any impression that Macron was planning a peace initiative like those launched by his predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.
However during a joint press conference between the two after their talks, Macron said Paris opposes Israel’s expansion of settlements and urged fresh Middle East peace talks.
Stressing that international law should be “respected by all,” Macron said: “I am thinking here of (Israel’s) continued building” in occupied Palestinian territory.
Israelis and Palestinians should be able “to live side by side within secure and recognized borders with Jerusalem as the capital,” Macron said.
“I hope everything will be done for negotiations to move forward,” he added.
Macron met Abbas last Wednesday, when he said he backed a two-state solution and opposed Israeli settlements.
“France has always condemned the continuation of settlement building, which is illegal under international law and has reached an unprecedented level since the beginning of the year,” he said in what were his first public remarks on the conflict since taking office.
AFP contributed to this report.