Knesset Speaker Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein met on Wednesday with the President of the French Senate Gérard Larcher, saying Israel felt “angry and disappointed” that France voted in favor of UNSC Resolution 2334 on “settlement activity.” The visit took place despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ban on visits from senior officials originating from countries that voted in favor of the resolution.
“The French UN vote was dire, especially in light of Israel’s support for France following repeated terrorist attacks over the past two years, and in light of aid Israel that provided to France,” Edlestein told Larcher and the accompanying senior senators.
“Voting [for a one-sided resolution] is certainly not the way to promote peace in the region. As a friend, we expect France to act differently,” he added.
Larcher answered that there was a deep need to establish a dialogue mechanism between parliaments “to avoid misunderstanding and prejudice.”
“I understand your feelings about the UN vote, though the surprise came more from the direction of the United States. The Paris Peace Conference aims to help; there must be a dialogue between the parties. The region is a real chaos.”
Larcher’s visit follows French envoy Pierre Vimont, who visited the region in November and met with Israeli and Palestinian officials to promote the idea of a Paris-based peace conference, aimed at triggering a revival of the peace process. The conference is set for January 15, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has condemned the initiative and reiterated the Israeli government’s position that peace with the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct talks, not international forums.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman further said last Monday that a “peace summit” that takes place without the participation of either Israeli or Palestinian representatives would be little more than a “modern day Dreyfus affair” to conjure up false charges against the entire Jewish people.
Meeting with the French delegation in the Knesset Speaker’s Office, Edlestein seconded Liberman’s view of the upcoming Paris conference and added that international public opinion that views Judea and Samaria settlement communities as the main obstacles to peace is fundamentally mistaken. “What did we get when we left Gaza? Thousands of missiles,” he said.
During his visit in the Knesset, Larcher also met with opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog and Chairman of the Israel-France Parliamentary Friendship Group, MK Eli Alalouf, who spoke about the steep decline in the quality of bilateral relations between the two countries, describing it as mutually detrimental.
Notably, Lea Goldin, mother of the late Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held by Hamas since Operation Protective Edge, asked Larcher for France’s help, as a Security Council member state, to retrieve her son’s body. “This is not a political issue, it’s a humanitarian one,” Goldin stressed.
President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin also told Larcher during their meeting on Tuesday Israel appreciates France’s concern and efforts to solve the conflict. “Yet, it must be very clear, there are no shortcuts in the Middle East,” he told Larcher. “The solution to this conflict requires two things — to build trust between the sides, and direct negotiations between the two sides.”