Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday criticized an international peace conference in Paris slated for Friday, charging that it could harm prospects for peace and “radicalize Palestinian demands.”
Reiterating a previous call for direct talks without preconditions, the prime minister told the graduation ceremony of Bar-Ilan University’s faculty of medicine in Safed that such measures by other countries are hindering peace.
“The way to peace doesn’t go through international conferences that try to force an arrangement [on the sides], radicalize Palestinian demands and thus push peace farther away,” Netanyahu said.
“The path to peace passes through direct negotiations, without preconditions by the sides. That’s how it was when we achieved peace with Jordan and also with Egypt, and that’s how it has to be with the Palestinians.”
Addressing representatives of countries planning to attend the French-sponsored summit, to which neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives have been invited, Netanyahu called on them to join his call for direct talks.
“If the countries gathering this week in Paris really want to advance peace, they must join my call to Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] to enter into direct negotiations. That’s the only path to peace.”
On Monday, Netanyahu partially endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative, offering to negotiate with the Arab world the parameters of the plan, which promises Israel full diplomatic ties with 57 Arab and Muslim states after cementing a peace accord with the Palestinians.
“I take this opportunity to make clear that I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors. The Arab Peace Initiative contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu declared in the Knesset.
“We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in our region since 2002 [when the proposal was first floated], but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples,” Netanyahu said, making his statement first in Hebrew and then repeating it in English.
The prime minister concluded his remarks by welcoming a recent speech by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who offered Cairo’s assistance in helping Israelis and Palestinians reach a peace agreement.
Netanyahu did not mention his frequently reiterated conditions for any peace deal with Ramallah, namely that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized and has to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.