Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expects that there will be some “sobering up” regarding the recently expressed French intention to recognize a Palestinian state if Paris’s efforts to broker a peace conference fail.
Speaking on Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu referenced the initiative put forward on Friday by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, underscoring that the French call for an international conference included a threat at the end: “that if it does not succeed then France will essentially adopt to a large degree the Palestinian position.”
Netanyahu said this “gives an incentive to the Palestinians not to come to the negotiations and not to compromise."
“The essence of negotiations is compromise, and the French initiative as it was reported essentially gives the Palestinians reason not to do so,” he said.
Israel will work so that there is a “sobering up” on this matter, Netanyahu said, adding that Jerusalem’s position is clear: “We are willing to enter into direct negotiations without any preconditions or dictated conditions.”
President Reuven Rivlin also touched on the French initiative during a speech at the Foreign Ministry to the annual meeting of Israel’s ambassadors and consuls-general abroad.
“It is proper that the dialogue between us and our close allies on all issues relating to the security of Israel and its citizens should be conducted in a direct manner, not above Israel’s heads in a conference with many participants,” Rivlin said.
Nevertheless, Rivlin said that the lack of a diplomatic horizon should not “condemn us to [diplomatic] passivity.”
“The improvement in the state of the relations between the two peoples [Israelis and Palestinians] is a distinct Israeli interest that must go alongside the active and assertive defense of the State of Israel and its citizens,” he said. ”Such a policy proves that Israel is cautious, not reactionary, and that the security of its citizens, together with efforts for peace, stands at the forefront of our national priorities.”
Saying that few people understand the degree to which Israel’s diplomats thwart boycotts, negative resolutions in international bodies and angry condemnations, Rivlin added that their mission was “not limited to defending Israel against propaganda attacks and international pressure.”
“Diplomacy,” he said, “has been and remains a vital component of the proactive advancement of the State of Israel, and the safeguarding of its vital interests.”
Speaking to employees of a ministry without a full-time minister (the prime minister is also foreign minister) and badly demoralized as bits and pieces of its authority and budgets have been parceled away to other ministries, Rivlin said that Israel needed a strong Foreign Ministry.
“Israel is today a strong country. The Israel Defense Forces and security services know the field of operations well and understand the growing and increasingly complex challenges, while the international arena in which you represent the State of Israel is more complex than ever. The Israeli foreign service as a whole, and you as its most preeminent representatives, make up an essential and central component in the safeguarding of Israel’s national resilience.”
Netanyahu also spoke to the ambassadors, and related to the recent threats from Hamas regarding the attack tunnels from the Gaza Strip.
“If we are attacked from the tunnels in the Gaza Strip, we will respond with great force against Hamas, with much greater force than we used during Operation Protective Edge,” he said.
“I think they understand this in the region, and in the world,” he added. “I hope we do not need to do this, but our defensive and offensive capabilities are developing rapidly, and I do not recommend that anyone should test us.”