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Netanyahu and Abbas.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Netanyahu: Abbas not taking the right steps for reconciliation with Israel
Comments come amid more reports that French peace conference won’t happen since Trump elected US president
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the 39th anniversary of Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem to highlight on Sunday differences between the slain Egyptian peacemaker and the current Palestinian leadership.

“Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of president Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said at the outset of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, referring to the Sadat groundbreaking visit and his speech to the Knesset that launched the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal that is a cornerstone of Israel’s strategic policy.

“A peace agreement was achieved between Israel and Egypt through direct negotiations; this agreement has stood for almost 40 years, currently under the courageous leadership of Egyptian President [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi. I note this because here one can see the contrast with what is occurring vis-à-vis the Palestinians,” he said.

Netanyahu said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to come to direct negotiations without preconditions, continues to “incite his people regarding the idea of a right of return and erasing the State of Israel,” and “is not taking the right steps to start calming things and preparing public opinion for reconciliation with the State of Israel.”

By contrast, certain Arab countries are taking those steps, he said without elaborating.

Netanyahu’s comments came on the same day that the London-based pan-Arabic Al-Hayat newspaper reported from Ramallah that France was backing away from its proposal for an international peace conference in Paris by the end of the year.

According to that report, France’s reason for its change-of- heart has to do with US President-elect’s Donald Trump’s win in the elections, Israel’s refusal to participate in the parley and the current US administration’s lack of enthusiasm caused by Israel’s unwillingness to take part.

reported that French envoy Pierre Vimont, the diplomat spearheading efforts to convene the conference, was told during a meeting at the State Department last week that Washington does not believe anything can come out of the conference without Israel’s participation.

Israeli officials told Vimont in Jerusalem early this month that Israel is opposed to the parley, and believes it will only make direct negotiations more difficult to restart. The paper said that a committee connected to the conference will meet in Stockholm this week to assess the initiative and look at the possibility of holding it sometime next year.

The Al-Hayat report dovetails with a similar one published in Maariv on Thursday that was quickly denied by the French. That report quoted French President François Hollande as saying at a climate conference in Morocco last week that “the chances of holding the peace conference in Paris are not good.”

The French denied that report, or that they were walking away from the conference, with a French Foreign Ministry spokesman saying, “Our goal is to convene an international conference in order to help relaunch the Middle East peace process. We are working closely with our partners and in collaboration with the parties to that end.”
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