Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Jerusalem Sunday that the only way to proceed toward peace between Israel and Palestine was through direct negotiations without any preconditions. Netanyahu rejected the French attempts at resuming peace talks, calling them an “escape hatch” that will avoid recognizing Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people.”
Speaking during a weekly meeting of his cabinet ministers, Netanyahu said he told Ayrault that Israel found “it difficult to treat France’s peace effort as unbiased in light of Paris’ support of the Unesco Temple Mount resolution,” adopted last month, which went against Israel, according to a Haaretz report.
“I told him [Ayrault] that the scandalous resolution that was approved by Unesco, with the support of France, that doesn’t recognize millennia-long connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount, casts a shadow over the fairness of any summit France is trying to convene,” Netanyahu said.
The last peace negotiations, brokered by the United States, between Israel and Palestine to secure a two-state deal, broke down in April 2014. Israel does not support the resumption of peace talks being promoted by France over concerns that an international forum would try dictate terms for a deal.
Citing unidentified sources in Ayrualt’s entourage, Agence France-Presse reported that the Paris peace talks were not meant to bypass direct talks between the two sides, which France believes is the only way to resolve the conflict. Rather, it was taking the initiative since there were “currently no negotiations.”
After meeting the Israeli prime minister, Ayrault headed to Ramallah to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The French foreign minister is expected to hold a press conference at Ben Guiron Airport in Tel Aviv before leaving the country later Sunday.
The U.S. has not yet indicated its support for or confirmed its attendance at the Paris peace talks. The U.S., Russia, EU, the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League and some other countries, not including representatives from either Israel or Palestine, have been invited for a May 30 meeting.