PARIS – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will return to Israel Friday claiming to have secured the support of two key European countries – France and England – against accepting any Palestinian government that fails to renounce terror and refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
A French government source said Paris was seeking clarifications regarding Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s comment, made during the signing ceremony for the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement in Cairo on Wednesday, that “our fight is with the Israeli occupier.”
'France, Britain may recognize Palestinian state'
Opinion: Calling the shots
Speaking to the press on Thursday after his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Netanyahu said the French leader “spoke of his commitment to Israel’s security and the clear principle that those who want to make peace have to abandon the goal of destroying Israel and [have to] make peace with Israel.”
He added that according to Sarkozy, peace with Israel meant recognition of “Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people. He was very clear about that,” Netanyahu said.
“Just like any fair minded person, Israel can only make peace with those who have abandoned the goal of destroying Israel,” the prime minister added.
Hamas had done no such thing, he said, and “more to the point, it continues to fire rockets at Israel.... An enemy that wants to destroy us is not a partner for peace.”
On Wednesday, Sarkozy had told the French news magazine L’Express that he would consider recognizing a Palestinian state in September should no progress be made in the peace process.
Until last week, when Fatah announced its intention to sign the unity deal with Hamas, support for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in September had been gaining steam.
But European leaders who have long wanted to see a Palestinian state, particularly one that unifies Fatah and Hamas, are hesitant to support a Palestinian government that includes a group that has not renounced its goal of destroying Israel.
Netanyahu had initially planned his trip to Europe to try to thwart support for Palestinian unilateralism.
After the unity deal was signed, he considered the effort more critical, but found a much more supportive ear.
In Britain and again in France, Netanyahu received the same message – there would be no support for a state that fails to renounce terror.
Netanyahu said he recognized that the Palestinians could easily bring the United Nations General Assembly to pass any resolution they wanted in support of statehood.
“Can there be an automatic majority in the UN? The answer is yes. They can say the earth is flat, and they can pass it,” he said.
But he has focused his attention on countries that can veto any UN Security Council resolution in support of Palestinian statehood. These include Great Britain, France and the US.
Peace, Netanyahu said, can only be achieved through negotiations and not through a “UN dictate.”
The words Netanyahu heard from Sarkozy were similar to the message he received on Wednesday at 10 Downing Street, where he met with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
After the meeting, Downing Street put out a statement saying Cameron believed that “any new Palestinian government must reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and engage in the peace process,” and that Britain would “judge it by its actions.” The two leaders had a working dinner during which Cameron assured Netanyahu his country remained a staunch ally of Israel.
Cameron said in the statement he was hopeful that progress toward peace could be made. Recent events in the Middle East had “strengthened the case for meaningful engagement in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Progress would help cement Israel’s long-term security and reinforce prospects for democracy and moderation in the region,” he said.
On Wednesday, UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke in the House of Lords and echoed Netanyahu, saying peace can happen only when Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, he said, has propagated “some of the most vicious anti-Semitic myths ever to have inflamed the hatred.
Until Hamas undergoes fundamental change, there may be a process but
there will not be peace. Peace is more than a resting place on the road
Sacks urged his government to be resolute in its insistence that any
future Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist.