Israel considering Paris parley to jump-start talks

Visiting French FM Juppé hopes the Obama formula can bring new negotiations and avert the Palestinians’ bid for statehood in September.

PM Netanyahu and French FM Juppe58 (R) (photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
PM Netanyahu and French FM Juppe58 (R)
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
Israel is considering a French proposal for an international peace conference in Paris next month, government sources said Thursday.
The idea of the conference, suggested here by visiting French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, is one of several proposals Israel is looking at in order to avert the Palestinians’ bid for UN General Assembly recognition of statehood, the sources said.
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Speaking after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Juppé Thursday, the government sources said that “the French proposed different ideas, and we are looking at them.”
Juppé’s talks with Netanyahu followed the French minister’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Rome Wednesday. He then met with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Thursday in Ramallah.
“The status quo here in the Middle East between Israel and Palestinians is no longer tolerable,” Juppé told reporters after his talks with Fayyad.
“We are convinced that if nothing happens here between now and September, the situation will be very difficult for everyone at the time of the United Nations General Assembly,” he said in reference to Palestinian plans to take the issue of statehood recognition to the world body in September.
Juppé said he hoped talks could be resumed in Paris before the end of July, using a formula presented by US President Barack Obama that would see negotiations focus first on borders and security, using the 1967 lines – with mutually agreed land swaps – as the baseline.
Netanyahu, during his trip last week to Washington, categorically rejected using the 1967 lines as the baseline for negotiations, saying these lines were indefensible.
Despite these objections, Juppé said he thought “there are reasons to believe that we can make progress and trigger a dialogue,” adding that a decision on this would be needed in the coming days.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been pushing since last September for a Mideast-peace conference in Paris.
While Juppé held a press conference alongside Fayyad in Ramallah, there was no press conference or photo opportunity with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whom he met Wednesday evening – nor before or after his meeting with Netanyahu.
A photo opportunity at the beginning of a planned meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday morning was also cancelled, apparently all in an effort to stem off any public French- Israeli disagreement over the 1967 lines, or the Palestinian statehood recognition bid at the UN in September.
France, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council with veto rights on that body, has not yet decided whether to back this Palestinian move if peace talks don’t materialize, Juppé said.
The PMO issued a statement after the Netanyahu- Juppé meeting saying Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the French decision to take action against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
According to the statement, Netanyahu said France’s actions sent a strong message to Gaddafi and helped prevent a massacre.
“Gaddafi has a long history of supporting international terrorism and violence against his own people. He was never a friend of Israel or the Jewish people, and Israel will certainly not be sorry to see him disappear from the map,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister also said that when a new government takes over in Libya, Israel hoped it would further “peace and security for all the peoples in the region.”
In a related matter, Netanyahu – during a speech to a high-tech conference in Jerusalem on Thursday evening – accused Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas of responsibility for attempts to storm Israel’s borders in the north on May 15.
“We witnessed attempts by our enemies to undermine our sovereignty and break through Israel’s borders,” Netanyahu said, calling the move a provocation. “These same elements are expected in the next few days to try again and challenge Israeli’s sovereignty over its borders.
Like every country in the world, Israel will protect and defend its borders.”
Israel, according to government sources, has relayed messages during the week to Lebanon and Syria calling on them to prevent people from crossing the border with Israel, saying that they are responsible for ensuring that the integrity of the border is not compromised.
“We are obviously not interested in a recurrence of the violence of May,” one government official said.
“And we think all parties in the region should do what they can to avoid acts that will lead to an escalation.”
Reuters contributed to this report.