Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (R) meets with Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his French counterpart in a meeting Monday in Jerusalem the only way to reach peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is through direct talks. Israel is through with multilateral negotiations, he said.

“Though we have some disagreements on the best way to achieve peace, I deeply appreciate your commitment to pursue it,” he told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

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“I know how much you care about ending the terrible violence that has plagued our region for far too long, and I want to thank you and President Hollande for your commitment to peace.

“We share the same goals: peace, two states for two peoples, an end to war,” he added, but emphasized his position that the only way to end the conflict is via direct talks, without preconditions.

“This weekend you said that direct talks are very difficult right now,” he told Valls in a reference to comments by Valls explaining the rationale behind a “peace summit” to which neither Israelis nor Palestinians were invited.

“You’re right. They (direct talks) are (difficult), but they’re the only way to proceed towards peace.

“Peace just does not get achieved through international conferences, UN-style,” Netanyahu went on. “It doesn’t get to fruition through international dictats or committees from countries around the world who are sitting and seeking to decide our fate and our security when they have no direct stake in it.

“Peace is achieved through direct negotiations between the parties and in direct negotiations, the Palestinian leadership must face a stark choice and this choice is simple: recognize the Jewish state or continue educating your people that one day Israel will be gone.

The PA, he said, seeks to “create a Palestinian state not to live side-by-side next to Israel, but to eliminate Israel.”

“The Palestinian leadership doesn’t see the French initiative as an inducement to compromise, but rather as a way to avoid it,” Netanyahu insisted. “In fact, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Hamdallah, let slip the other day his hope for an imposed timetable, rather than a negotiated peace,” Netanyahu pointed out, adding that Israel had made peace via direct talks with Jordan and Egypt.

Instead, Netanyahu made a counter offer to Prime Minister Manuel Valls, suggesting a “different French initiative” in Paris: face-to-face talks with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Paris, he said, “is a marvelous place anyway. It can still be called the French initiative, because you would host this genuine effort for peace, but here’s the difference: I will sit alone directly with President Abbas in the Élysée Palace, or anywhere else that you choose. Every difficult issue will be on the table: mutual recognition, incitement, borders, refugees and yes, settlements – everything.

“There is no issue too complex to solve if both sides are willing to talk to each other. And I am more than willing; I am eager. I was injured in battle; I lost a brother; I lost many friends in battle. Israel wants nothing more than peace. And I hope you encourage President Abbas to accept this French initiative: direct negotiations without preconditions, between the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian president in Paris.”

“I’m ready to clear my schedule and fly to Paris tomorrow,” he added, before quipping: “well, I think tomorrow we’re expanding the government, but the day after tomorrow.”

Valls arrived for a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority as part of his mandate to promote the multilateral French initiate. He also met with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin.

The “French initiative” calls for a first meeting in Paris for foreign ministers from 20 to 30 nations on June 3 without Israel and the Palestinian Authority. A second meeting would follow after the summer, with Israel and Palestinian Authority officials in attendance. Palestinian Authority leaders agreed to the initiative.

But neither meeting would involve direct talks between the two parties, which Israel insists is an essential component to reach a decision on the thorny issues in any final status deal.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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