Netanyahu accepts Paris invite to meet Abbas, if France drops conference

Hollande invited PM, Abbas for tête-à-tête day after planned Paris parley.

December 8, 2016 01:27
2 minute read.
Hollande peach conference

Netanyahu, Hollande and Abbas. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accepted French President François Hollande’s invitation to meet with him and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris later this month, as long as there is no international conference.

The French are planning a conference of foreign ministers in Paris on December 21 to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and invited Netanyahu and Abbas to come to the city the day after for a meeting of their own.

Israel has made clear that it sees the French-led conference, a follow-up to a meeting of foreign ministers in Paris over the summer, as an effort to impose a settlement on it, and that it will not take part.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that Netanyahu spoke to Hollande, and said that “if there is no international conference in Paris, the prime minister will come to meet Abu Mazen [Abbas] for direct talks without preconditions.”

Israel will “not take part in an international conference that will not contribute to achieving peace,” the statement read.

Netanyahu has said repeatedly over the last number of months that he would meet Abbas “anywhere, anytime” for direct talks without preconditions.
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The French daily Le Figaro reported on Wednesday that France’s ambassador to Israel, Helen Le Gal, spoke with National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel earlier in the week to extend the invitation for the meeting with Abbas that would take place the day after the international conference.

According to the report, published before Netanyahu and Hollande spoke, Paris remains determined to go ahead with the conference, unfazed by the “icy reception” from Israel.

The paper reported a French diplomat as saying that since Netanyahu refuses to participate in the French initiative, but at the same time says that he wants to meet with Abbas, Paris decided it was time “to take him at his word.”

Israel, diplomatic sources said, viewed the invitation to meet a day after dozens of foreign ministers will gather as “part of the French initiative.”

“Peace will be achieved through direct negotiations with our Palestinian neighbors, not through international conferences,” Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said. “Our position has not changed: Israel will not attend the French conference, because it will push peace further away.”

The Palestinians, meanwhile, accepted the invitation, with PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani telling The Jerusalem Post that “President Abbas agreed to the French invitation and informed the French president of this.”

Even before Netanyahu delivered his answer to Hollande, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat predicted that the meeting would not take place.

“Netanyahu has already made up his mind,” he said, charging that the prime minister has chosen “settlement and replacing the twostate solution with ugly apartheid in the occupied state of Palestine in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.”

Referring to a Russian attempt in September to arrange a meeting between the two leaders, Erekat said that Netanyahu rejected that as well. Netanyahu said at the time that the Palestinians had attached preconditions to that meeting.

“He’s the one who suspended the negotiations,” Erekat said of Netanyahu.

“Just look at his actions; his policies are determined by his deeds not his words. It seems that Benjamin the Magnificent Netanyahu is not willing to have peace and stop settlement and say the words ‘two states on 1967 [borders].’” Ben Lynfield contributed to this report.

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