Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down a French-Qatari proposal for a cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu told French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Sunday that Israel was not interested in French or Qatari involvement because he did not want to derail Egypt's mediation efforts.
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A Western diplomat and an Israeli official who were briefed about Netanyahu's meeting with Fabius both said the French official surprised Netanyahu by rather awkwardly handing the prime minister a one-page document he said was a joint French-Qatari cease-fire proposal.
The document consisted of two clauses. The first stipulated that Israel and Hamas would stop firing at a time agreed by both sides. The second clause said Hamas would act "as best it can" to restrain and to prevent fire by other organizations in the Gaza Strip, the sources said.
Netanyahu read the paper quickly and rejected it out of hand, criticizing what he saw as a proposal full of holes, they said. He said politely but firmly that the proposal does not provide a real answer to the situation in Gaza. He said it does not guarantee that the other militant organizations in Gaza, apart from Hamas, will stop firing rockets at Israel or attacking Israeli forces on the border, they said.
France did not advise other European Union countries of the move, and it was not clear as to whether it advised Egypt, or had acted with Qatar behind their backs. The Western diplomat noted that the French-Qatari initiative was not perceived by Israel as a serious move, rather as a French attempt to gain a role in the negotiations for a cease-fire. The Israeli source described the French offer as extremely amateurish, and appeared to be prepared hastily, without deep consideration of real solutions to the current situation.
French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot told Haaretz on Monday that he refuses to confirm or deny the existence of the French-Qatari document, or whether such a paper was presented to Netanyahu. "We are in contact with all countries that have the capacity to influence or exert pressure on Hamas in order to reach a cease-fire," said Bigot, "[French] President Francois Hollande spoke twice to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Foreign Minister Fabius is in contact on the matter with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Egypt."
The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the matter.