Manuel Valls
Manuel Valls Reuters

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was Sunday in Israel to advance his country's plan to impose a two-state solution in the face of opposition from his counterpart Binyamin Netanyahu.  

Valls, who arrived on Saturday night, is to meet Netanyahu on Monday before travelling to Ramallah on Tuesday to hold talks with Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah.

PA president Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed the French initiative to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of world powers on June 3, without the any Israelis or Palestinian officials.

Another conference would then be held in the autumn, with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal is to eventually restart negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian Arab state.

Negotiations between Israel and the PA have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

In an interview with PA newspaper Al-Ayyam published Sunday, Valls said that Israeli "settlement expansion" must stop.

But he also reiterated that his government would not automatically recognize a Palestinian state if the peace initiative failed, as had originally been suggested.

A threat to do so was made in January by former foreign minister Laurent Fabius, angering the Israeli government. His successor Jean-Marc Ayrault has since backed away from the statement.

"The objective is to arrive at the creation of a Palestinian state," Valls said in the interview.

"It is to allow your national aspirations to finally be realized. To say today when we will recognise the Palestinian state is to determine in advance the failure of our initiative."

Valls said "we must also guarantee" Israel's security, but called for a halt to building Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.  

"Stopping settlements is an imperative," he said. "Because we cannot both want to discuss peace and be sincere in the negotiations and at the same time continue to create facts on the ground."

Valls's visit comes at a time of political turbulence in Israel, with Netanyahu expected to soon finalize negotiations with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu party to join his coalition.

Lieberman, who lives in the town of Nokdim in Judea, is expected to take on the key role of defense minister.

On Sunday, Valls's visit was mainly devoted to economic and cultural issues.

AFP contributed to this report.