Peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors will lead to an agreement with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday as a French envoy visited Jerusalem to solicit support for an international conference on the conflict.
“The Arab world softening its views toward us will help us when the time comes to reach a real and lasting agreement with our Palestinian neighbors,” Netanyahu said.
“If someone thought earlier that a breakthrough with the Palestinians would lead to improved relations with the Arab world for us, the opposite is happening and will continue to happen.”
The prime minister spoke at a Likud faction meeting at Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center on the same day French envoy Pierre Vimont held talks with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold and Netanyahu’s special diplomatic envoy Isaac Molho.
Gold, in the past, has spoken against the idea of international conferences to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Foreign Ministry issued a skeptical statement following Gold’s meeting with Vimont.
“The Israeli side emphasized the importance of the principle of direct negotiations,” the Foreign Ministry said. “There should be bilateral talks without preconditions.”
It added however, that the Palestinian Authority must fight against terrorism and incitement.
The Foreign Ministry said those who met with Vimont asked questions in an attempt to understand the French initiative. Vimont is scheduled to meet with senior Palestinian officials on Tuesday, including Foreign Minister Riad Malki.
Some reports suggested he also might meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The PA leadership has already accepted and welcomed the French initiative, but does not expect it to succeed.
The US Administration recently launched an effort to scuttle the French initiative, a Palestinian official said. “The Americans have made it clear that they don’t want other parties meddling in the Israel-Arab conflict,” the official said.
Another official added: “I don’t see how this is going to work when the US administration has endorsed the Israeli stance, which basically rejects the idea of convening an international conference.”
“Besides, Israel does not want the international community to play any role in the conflict,” he added.
In Brussels, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault presented his initiative to the foreign ministers of the European Union’s 28 member states.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said all the member states welcomed Ayrault’s efforts to coordinate his country’s work with theirs and that of the Quartet.
The United States has carefully made positive public statements about the initiative, but has yet to endorse it, preferring instead to see Israelis and Palestinians relaunch direct talks. The last bilateral Israeli Palestinian peace process ended without results in April 2014.
In speaking to his faction in Jerusalem, Netanyahu praised past peace deals, such as the one Begin made with Egypt, but said it was time for the international community to realize that the paradigm for peacemaking had changed.
Israel’s relations with Arab countries have improved due to threats from Iran and Islamic State, he said.
“More and more Arab countries are realizing that Israel is not the enemy of the Arab world, but rather their partner in a joint struggle against Islamic extremists,” Netanyahu said.
“We are both fighting the Shiite Islamic extremists led by Iran and the Sunni extremists led by ISIS.”
Netanyahu said he hoped such partnerships would lead to the Palestinians adopting views that are more realistic and responsible regarding a future agreement with Israel.
The New York Times
on Monday weighed in on the frozen peace process with an editorial that suggested a non-binding UN Security Council resolution on the two-state solution may be the next best step to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“There are several options, but the best may be a resolution that puts the United Nations Security Council on record supporting the basic principles of a deal covering borders, the future of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, security and land swaps, but not imposing anything on the two parties,” the editorial stated.
It spoke disparagingly of the possibility that Netanyahu, Abbas and US President Barack Obama could make peace in the near future.
The paper stated that Netanyahu had “never shown a serious willingness” to progress toward a peace deal, “as is made clear by his expansion of Israeli settlements, which reduce the land available for a Palestinian state.”
Also, it described Abbas as “a weak and aging leader who has given up on peace.”
Despite Obama’s efforts, the paper said, he “may be presiding over the death of the two-state solution.”
Should the US push for a UNSC resolution, even one such as proposed by the New York Times, it would mark a break from the Obama administration’s position that direct talks between the two parties is the best way to resolve the conflict and arrive at a two-state solution.
Last fall, however, US officials in Washington said the president did not expect to arrive at a two-state solution by the time he leaves office in January. Since then, the US has pushed for a plan that would move the process forward so the next administration could best arrive at a two-state solution.
Haaretz reported on Monday that as part of effort to stabilize the situation in the West Bank, Israelis and Palestinians had held talks on stopping IDF incursions into Area A of the West Bank in pursuit of Palestinians it believed posed a security threat. The PA has full civilian control of Area A, but the IDF has the right to enter for security reasons.
The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on the Haaretz
An Israeli official, however, explained that the IDF went into those areas because the PA’s security forces had failed to combat Palestinian terrorism.
“Israel would prefer not to have to conduct military operations inside Area A. From our perspective, it would be preferable that the Palestinian security services do what they are supposed to do and prevent terrorist operations against Israel from Area A,” the official said.
“Unfortunately, they are not doing that. If the Palestinian side was to fulfill its obligations and there was no need to go into Area A, no one would be happier than Israel,” he continued.
Early Monday morning, three IDF soldiers were injured in two separate terrorist attacks in the area of the Kiryat Arba settlement and the city of Hebron. Soldiers shot and killed the three Palestinian assailants.
As a result of their deaths, the PA renewed its call seeking international protection and for ending Israeli “aggression” on Palestinians, accusing Israel of “executing” the attackers.
The PA government also strongly denounced the deaths of two Palestinian children who were killed in an Israeli military raid in Gaza following the firing of rockets at Israel last weekend.
“The continued bloody escalation by the occupation requires urgent international intervention and protection for the Palestinians,” the PA government said in a statement.
It also expressed deep concern over “continued incitement” by Israeli government officials against the Palestinians, and held the Israeli government fully responsible for rising tensions.