Paris Peace Summit Postponed

Strain over peace talks causes delay in peace meeting in French capital.

Elad Benari , | updated: 9:06 AM

Sarkozy and Netanyahu
Sarkozy and Netanyahu
Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office announced on the weekend that a planned peace summit between Israel and Palestinian Authority, that was to be held in Paris by the end of the month, has been rescheduled.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy had invited Netanyahu, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to meet before the end of October. The talks were intended to prepare for another summit in late November of leaders from European and Mediterranean countries including Middle East players. Although an exact date for the summit had not been set, it was believed that October 21 was a possible date.

“Following joint consultations it has been agreed to set a new date for the preparatory meeting,” said the statement from Netanyahu's office said. An Israeli government official told Reuters: “We are looking for a new date that works for everybody, although there is nothing firm scheduled yet.”

The meeting would have been the first face-to-face meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas since the U.S.-backed direct peace talks took place in Sharm El Sheikh last month. The PA called off the talks when the 10-month construction freeze in Judea and Samaria expired at the end of September after Abbas let the first nine months of it go by without agreeing to talks..

Netanyahu has so far resisted U.S. pressure to extend the freeze but has demanded that the PA recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, a request flatly denied by Abbas. . A recent report claimed Netanyahu had rejected a promise of U.S. support in exchange for continuing the freeze. Washington insider David Makovsky had claimed that the U.S. sent Israel a letter offering, among other things, to sell some of its most sophisticated weapons to Israel if it would freeze construction for two more months. White House officials denied the report and did not confirm or deny that the U.S. may make future promises in exchange for a construction freeze.

Meanwile, on Friday, the Housing Ministry approved the construction of 240 homes in the densely populated northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot and Pisgat Zeev, after several months with no construction in Jewish neighborhoods out of the pre- 1967 war borders. While there was no official Jerusalem building freeze, no new building permits had been issued for some time.

The approval of the new homes may further stall peace talks, as the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries reject Israel's claim to Jerusalem and have demanded that all parts of the city that were under Jordanian occupation from 1948-1967 when Jordan overran areas that were not allotted to it, be given to the PA to be used as the capital of a new Arab state. The Obama administration has largely backed PA demands, and has criticized Israel for allowing Jews to build new homes throughout the city.

The Israeli government official told Reuters: “This construction is taking place in neighborhoods that in every peace plan that has been put on the table in the last two decades would stay as part of Israel and therefore it in no way contradicts the goal of reaching a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.”

However, PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Friday that Netanyahu “has made his choice -- settlements over peace,” and has “demonstrated why there are no negotiations today.”