Netanyahu slams French 'threat' to recognise Palestine if talks fail
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu has criticised a French ultimatum that it would unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state if peace talks fail, saying such rhetoric might encourage Palestinians to shun any compromise.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius proposed a new round of peace talks on Friday after months of Western frustration over the absence of movement towards a two-state solution.
Fabius said that if new talks failed to break the deadlock, Paris would unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state, raising concerns in Israel that other European countries could follow suit.
On Sunday night, Netanhayu told his cabinet that Israel did not reject the proposal for renewed talks, but slammed France’s “threat” as “an incentive to the Palestinians to come along and not compromise”.
“I assess that there will be a sobering up regarding this matter,” Netanyahu added. “In any event, we will make effort so that there is a sobering up here, and our position is very clear: We are prepared to enter direct negotiation without preconditions and without dictated terms.”
On Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the French proposal, telling an African summit in Ethiopia that “the status quo cannot continue”.
Washington responded with caution to the French move, saying it wanted Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement on final-status issues through direct talks.
While aware that a new round of talks may struggle to get off the ground, French officials told Reuters that Paris had a responsibility to act now in the face of Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories, amid the prospect of diplomatic inaction from the United States as it focuses on its presidential election.
And, the officials said, Netanyahu had gone a step too far in accusing UN Secretary of State Ban Ki-moon of giving a “tailwind to terrorism” by laying some of the blame for four months of stabbings and car rammings by Palestinians at Israel’s door. Ban angered Israel by saying last week that it is “human nature to react to occupation”.
The United States, European Union - Israel’s closest allies - have also issued unusually stern criticism of Israel in recent weeks, reflecting their own frustration with the policies of Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
The criticism, particularly about the settlements, where some 550,000 Jews live in around 250 communities scattered across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has raised Palestinian hopes that world powers might finally be minded to support a UN resolution condemning Israel’s policy outright.
The Palestinians are seeking a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, parts of which have been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Palestine has non-member observer status at the United Nations and its flag flies with those of member states at UN headquarters in New York.
Sweden became the first EU member nation to recognise the Palestinian state in 2014. A total of 136 UN-member countries, mostly in Africa, Latin America and Asia, now do so.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)