Nicolas Sarkozy 260.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)
Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is
key to any peace agreement that establishes a two-state solution, French
President Nicolas Sarkozy told members of the World Jewish Congress on
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The WJC representatives met with Sarkozy for 90 minutes at the
Elysée Palace in Paris, according to sources from the gathering who spoke with
The Jerusalem Post by telephone from the French capital.
recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been an important point for Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has insisted that the Palestinian failure to
take this step is the true stumbling block to peace.
Palestinians in turn
have insisted it is continued construction in settlements and in east Jerusalem
that has prevented a peace deal.
Sarkozy told the Jewish leaders,
including members of the Counseil Representatif des Institutions juives de
France (CRIF), that he was very critical of Israeli settlement construction,
according to the sources.
He called on Israel to freeze settlement
construction in the West Bank, but not in Jewish neighborhoods of east
Jerusalem, according to the sources.
Sarkozy drew a link between an
Israeli settlement freeze and Palestinian recognition of Israel’s Jewish nature
as the best way to resume negotiations, the sources said.
Lauder and CRIF members said it was important to distinguish
between Jewish construction in the West Bank and such building in Jerusalem.
They underscored for Sarkozy the importance of Jerusalem as the capital of the
Jewish people, and that it was important not to divide it.
said they felt Sarkozy had understood their point.
Dan Diker said settlement construction had little to do with the Palestinian
decision to seek unilateral recognition of statehood, according to the
Since 2009, the Palestinian Authority has made a strategic
decision to stop negotiating with Israel and to pursue statehood independent of
Israeli actions, Diker said.
Diker said Israel has waited “with an
outstretched hand” for the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating
Diker reminded Sarkozy that Israel was willing to talk with the
Palestinians without preconditions, according to the sources.
said it was essential for negotiations to resume and “the only way to peace” was
through direct talks between the two sides. He added that France wanted to play
a central role in helping Israel and the Palestinians reach a final-status
agreement, the sources said.
Sarkozy also spoke of his opposition to the
Palestinian bid for full UN membership.
Lauder thanked Sarkozy for the
French decision last week to promise to abstain in the UN Security Council vote
on Palestinian UN membership.
None of the visitors to the palace brought
up Tuesday’s headline story in which Sarkozy was heard calling Netanyahu a liar
in a conversation with US President Barack Obama.
But the sources added
that Sarkozy has spoken of his support for Netanyahu.
“I have defended
Bibi throughout my political life,” the French president said, according to the
sources. He added that he was a longtime supporter of Israel and its leadership,
even when people made anti- Semitic slurs against him as a
Sarkozy told the Jewish leadership he felt that Israel had lost
the media war and had failed to make its case to the international community
that it wanted peace, according to the sources.