Netanyahu: Path to peace not through conferences

Prime Minister Netanyahu again criticizes the French peace initiative, says direct talks are the only way to achieve peace.

Elad Benari ,

Netanyahu at the faculty of medicine in Tzfat
Netanyahu at the faculty of medicine in Tzfat
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday once again criticized the French peace initiative, as Paris prepares to convene a conference of foreign ministers on Friday to discuss the diplomatic stalemate in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

"The path to peace is not via international conferences that attempt to force a settlement, that make the Palestinian demands more extreme and in the process distance peace," Netanyahu said at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee, according to Haaretz.

"If the countries gathering this week in Paris really want to advance peace, they should join my call to Abu Mazen [PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas] to come to such direct negotiations. That's the path to peace. There is no other way," he added.

Netanyahu stressed that he is not ceasing efforts to find ways to advance the peace process, including using the assistance of other countries in the region.

"The path to peace is via direct negotiations and without preconditions between the parties. That's how it was in the past when we achieved peace with Egypt and also with Jordan and that's how it needs to be with the Palestinians," he said.

Friday’s gathering in Paris will be attended by the foreign ministers of 29 countries from around the world, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. A senior Israeli official noted on Wednesday that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond have decided not to attend the meeting and are sending more junior representatives.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in all probability also not expected to attend, sending one of his deputies instead, the Israeli official said.

Back in January when the French initiative was announced, Paris had threatened to unilaterally recognize the "state of Palestine" if it failed.

Since then, however, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault backtracked on the threat, saying France would not “automatically” recognize a Palestinian state if its initiative fails.

Wednesday’s comments are not the first time that Israel has voiced its objection to the French initiative, with Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold having said last month the French proposal had "many problems."

Late last month, Netanyahu said he would be willing to meet Abbas face to face for direct talks, a comment which was swiftly rejected by the PA.