Despite Netanyahu’s assertion that he will resist any peace initiative imposed by the international community which endangers Israel’s security, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made clear he plans to advance such a proposal.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a joint press conference in Jerusalem on Sunday with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is on a two-day visit to the region in an attempt to breathe life into the stalled peace process and the French initiative to bring a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite Netanyahu’s assertion that Jerusalem will rebuff any international attempt to force a resolution that would hinder Israel’s security, Fabius said his country will push forward with its agenda.
The Israeli leader began by citing the shared history between the French nation and the Jewish people, and the close ties between the two countries. “Theodor Herzl and the founding fathers of Zionism drew much inspiration from the experience of France,” he said.
Relating to the latest terror attacks in Israel, including on that same day, when a Palestinian terrorist stabbed and critically wounded an Israeli border policeman in the Old City of Jerusalem, Netanyahu declared: “Not only has the Palestinian Authority refused to condemn these acts of violence, it continues unabashedly with its campaign of incitement against Israel and Israel’s civilians. Official Palestinian propagation of violence and hatred are par for the course. It must be unequivocally condemned by all those who seek to advance peace.”
Netanyahu restated his vision of peace based on two states for two peoples, according to which “a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.”
“I know that the twin foundations of peace are mutual recognition and security,” he continued. “Mutual recognition means that the Palestinians must finally recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. I find it, frankly, inconceivable that while the Palestinians expect us to recognize a Palestinian nation-state, they refuse to accord us the same privilege, recognizing a Jewish nation-state. And if they continue to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, what kind of peace are they offering us?”
The need for security “is self-evident for anyone that follows developments in this region,” he said, as the Middle East is “undergoing a period of unprecedented volatility and violence.”
A peace that does not ensure Israel’s security “will simply not survive and we will not agree to it,” Netanyahu affirmed. “Our concerns are not pretexts or excuses. They are genuine. A peace deal that ignores these realities will be swept away by the winds of extremism and violence that blow throughout the Middle East.”
Netanyahu stressed that peace can be achieved only through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions. “It will not come from UN resolutions that are sought to be imposed from the outside. President Abbas believes he can avoid such direct negotiations. He wants to avoid the give and take of negotiations. And why does he go that route? Because even though the Palestinians ran away from the negotiations again and again and again, it is Israel that is being blamed.”
“Last year, the Palestinians slammed the door on [US] Secretary Kerry’s framework for negotiations. They slammed the door on Prime Minister Barak. They slammed the door on Prime Minister Sharon. They slammed the door on Prime Minister Olmert. They slammed the door on me,” Netanyahu said.
Encouraged by international pressure such as the French initiative, the Palestinians attempt to impose terms on Israel, “but they will fail,” the prime minister stated. “This attempt will not merely fail, it will drive peace away. First, Israel will resist the imposition of terms from the outside. And second, the Palestinians will never agree to negotiate if they think the international community will give them what they want without negotiations. I think there is no magic shortcut. Peace demands a commitment to direct negotiations without preconditions. Peace demands a sustained effort to overcome obstacles. I am ready for such an effort.”
Unanswered Questions on the French Initiative
At the press conference, Fabius said he sensed a willingness in the two parties to return to the negotiating table. “We don’t want to replace the role of the sides,” he clarified.
The international community would only “accompany” the sides and help them get over the “final meters of the negotiations,” which have proved difficult in the past, he said.
Fabius did not explain how the French initiative, which includes a threat to unilaterally recognize Palestine at the UN Security Council (UNSC) after an 18-month deadline for the talks, would be more successful than previous failed international attempts to reach an agreement.
However, he claimed that the threatened UNSC resolution was “a means, not a goal,” and was not meant to replace negotiations.
Asked about Israel’s demand for recognition as a Jewish state by the Palestinians, the French diplomat evaded the issue, instead citing legal issues. “This is a complicated question, and we don’t have the right to decide it,” he said, adding the parameters for such recognition would need to ironed out.
Fabius restated France’s determination “not to give up” on regional peace.
He also met with President Reuven Rivlin, who remarked: “There is a fear that it is the intention of the Palestinians to transfer the conflict to the UN and not to hold direct negotiations. Therefore, any initiative which helps them to bypass direct negotiations with us, without preconditions, and refer instead to international institutions, is certainly a danger to progress.”