Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference with visiting French Prime Minister Manuel Valls earlier on Monday and informed him of Israel’s desire to continue direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
“This weekend you said that direct talks are very difficult right now, and you’re right, they are, but they’re the only way to proceed towards peace,” Netanyahu emphasized. “We want two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and I urge you not to let the Palestinian leadership shirk this difficult choice.”
The French prime minister is visiting Israel primarily to promote his country’s initiative to implement a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told his French counterpart that the French initiative could very well discourage the Palestinian Authority from engaging in direct talks with Israel.
“The Palestinian leadership doesn’t see the French initiative as an inducement to compromise, but rather as a way to avoid it,” Netanyahu contended. “In fact, the Palestinian prime minister, Hamdallah, let slip the other day his hope for an imposed timetable, rather than a negotiated peace.”
Netanyahu stressed what he felt was a need to continue direct negotiations despite the impulse by external parties to avoid the challenges associated with bilateral talks.
“I can tell you from long experience. I know how hard direct negotiations are, but this is how we achieved peace with Jordan and before that this is how we achieved peace with Egypt. And both peace treaties, achieved through direct negotiations, have stood the test of time,” Netanyahu said. “They’ve weathered many, many storms and many lives have been saved because we sat around the table with former enemies directly without preconditions and we made difficult decisions.”
Netanyahu told Prime Minister Valls that if France sincerely wants there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it must encourage an arrangement between both sides that is modeled after Israel’s agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
“If you really want to help launch peace, then help us launch direct negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, and that’s why I would gladly accept a different French initiative,” Netanyahu said to Valls.
“This initiative can still take place in Paris because that would be a marvelous place to sign a peace accord,” continued Netanyahu.. “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.”
Strangely enough, neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority were invited to the upcoming international summit on the French initiative scheduled for June 3rd in Paris. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized that he was prepared to participate in an initiative that actually sponsored direct talks between the parties themselves.
“I’m ready to clear my schedule and fly to Paris tomorrow. Well, I think tomorrow we’re expanding the government, but the day after tomorrow, Manuel, and it’s an open offer,” Netanyahu assured Valls. “I will clear my calendar and I hope that this is taken up by you and by the Palestinians.”
“Israelis and Palestinians have suffered too much,” continued Netanyahu. “It’s time to sit down together and work out our differences so that peace may reign at long last.”