France has said it intends to push ahead with its peace initiative despite Israel’s objections.
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French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 10 days ago that “I know that I haven’t persuaded you, but the train has already left the station.”
The message was relayed via diplomatic cable from the French to Israeli foreign ministries after Netanyahu and Ayrault spoke with each other following the June 3 foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris about efforts to sidestep a diplomatic freeze to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
During that conversation Netanyahu strongly criticized the French initiative and expressed strong objections to all its components.
A senior official in Jerusalem said the cable, also based on talks with senior French foreign ministry officials, showed that Ayrault was not impressed by Netanyahu’s comments, and intends to carry out further steps to advance the initiative this month.
The cable said that senior French foreign ministry officials told Israeli diplomats they view the statement issued at the end of the Paris meeting and the fact that more than 20 foreign ministers attended as a diplomatic statement that France has an international mandate to advance the peace initiative.
The senior Israeli official said members of the French Foreign Ministry told their Israeli colleagues they are interested in setting up working groups to continue the process launched at the Paris meeting, in the coming weeks.
The French want these groups to put together a package of confidence building steps for Israelis and Palestinians, a list of economic incentives the international community could offer both sides and regional security arrangements that might support an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
“The French told us they want to organize working groups by the end of the month,” the senior Israeli official said.
In his conversation with Ayrault, Netanyahu said he opposes setting up working groups especially for dealing with security issues.
Last week the Foreign Ministry received several messages from European capitals about setting up the working groups. The ministry was surprised to discover that two countries that hastened to volunteer in Paris to help organize these groups were Germany and the Czech Republic, seen as Israel’s two closest friends in Europe.
A few days ago the Foreign Ministry instructed Israeli ambassadors in Europe to inform their local foreign ministries of Israel’s objections to setting up the working groups.
The senior Israeli official said the French want to take two further steps to advance their initiative. Firstly, they want to take advantage of their status as rotating president of the UN Security Council and hold a debate about their peace initiative at a monthly session on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The official added that the French may try during the meeting, which will apparently be held in the last week of June, to put together a presidential statement for the UNSC that would express support for their initiative.
The second step they are expected to take will be at the monthly meeting of the 28 European Union foreign ministers taking place on June 20. The French want the meeting to pass a resolution expressing support for their initiative.
In parallel, toward the end of June the Quartet’s report about the diplomatic freeze in the peace process is due for publication. The EU’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini told the Security Council last Monday that the Quartet’s report would soon be published. She said the report would describe the immediate obstacles to renewing direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and policies both sides are taking that threaten the possibility of achieving a two-state solution.
Mogherini said the report would include clear recommendations regarding how to advance and create confidence on both sides that would permit a resumption of peace talks.