PM: We're weighing French peace conference proposal

Netanyahu tells weekly cabinet that the government will not deal with a Palestinian Authority that includes an unreformed Hamas.

Netanyahu Cabinet Meeting 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Netanyahu Cabinet Meeting 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday that Israel was weighing the French proposal of an international peace conference in July in Paris, but that Israel would not engage with a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas.
“I listened to the proposal brought from French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe,” Netanyahu said of the meeting he had with Juppe on Thursday. “We appreciate a great deal our French friends, and I will answer them after we consider matters. We will study this proposal and discuss it with our friends in the US. The Americans also want to promote initiatives, and we also have ideas of our own.”
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Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Palestinian Authority cautiously welcomed the French proposal to revive negotiations, but did not commit to the conference.
Netanyahu said his government would consider how the French proposal fit in with others, and that it was clear that since not all of the ideas could be implemented, it was best to focus on one idea and promote that.
Juppe’s proposal comes amid some speculation that US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy coordinated their policies when Obama was in Europe for the G8 meeting two weeks ago. France and the EU came out quickly in support of Obama’s Middle East policy speech last month that called for negotiations using the 1967 lines as the baseline, with mutually agreed land swaps. Netanyahu rejected that position.
Netanyahu said Sunday it was important to reiterate that Israel would not deal with a Palestinian government “half of which is made up of Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel.” Netanyahu said he made clear to Juppe that for Israel to engage with a unified Palestinian government, Hamas would have to accept the three conditions set by the Quartet: forsaking terrorism, recognizing Israel, and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinians agreements.
Netanyahu said that if it were true, as he said some were claiming, that there was a “new spirit” in Hamas, then the organization could prove that by freeing kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. And if PA President Mahmoud Abbas now has “such a good connection” with Hamas, then he should be able to get them to free Schalit, the Prime Minister said.
Not all the Likud ministers, however, believe Israel should be nodding positively toward the French proposal.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar expressed reservations about the proposal at the meeting, saying it was “problematic” for Israel because it included two components that Israel has already rejected: using the 1967 lines as the baseline for negotiations; and deferring discussion of other core issues, such as refugees, until a later date.
“As a result of this,” Sa’ar said, “Israel could find itself agreeing to a territorial withdrawal, and afterward coming up against a demand to return Palestinian refugees to Israel. We need to be firm on our diplomatic principles: to simultaneously discuss all final-status issues without first determining the end of the negotiations on any one issue.”
Netanyahu, according to government sources, made clear at the meeting that the idea that Israel could finalize border issues, and leave the refugee issue open, was not something it could accept.