Israel rejected French President Francois Hollande's invitation to convene a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris in two weeks' time, a senior official in Jerusalem said. The proposed meeting would have taken place as part of the French peace initiative.
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The senior official added that Israel conveyed the message to France and emphasized that it rejects the proposed meeting – which would have taken place following a summit of foreign ministers in Paris – in accordance with its general objection to the French peace initiative.
"It's quite clear that this is an attempt to try and make us accept the framework of the French peace initiative," the official said. "We're ready to meet with Abbas, without preconditions and not as part of the French peace initiative. If the French were interested in hosting, why didn’t they invite us a day before the foreign ministers' meeting or a month after the summit."
French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro reported on Tuesday that Hollande would like to convene a meeting of foreign ministers in Paris on December 21 to deal with the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as part of the peace initiative France launched at the beginning of the year. The planned summit would be a continuation a foreign ministers' meeting on the matter that took place in Paris in June.
The French government wants to invite to the summit the foreign ministers of some 30 to 50 countries. According to Le Figaro, the summit may be rescheduled for December 22 or December 23 in order to allow more foreign ministers to participate.
According to Le Figaro, the summit is set to work on developing a joint statement calling on the preservation of the two-state solution, while mentioning the UN resolutions on the issue and the need to reach a solution based on the pre-1967 lines.
During the summit, foreign ministers want the French to present the results of three working groups that worked in recent months on issues including: economic incentives for Israel and the Palestinians the day after reaching a peace agreement, strengthening the institutions of a future Palestinian state and increasing civil society's involvement in the peace process. Hollande was interested in presenting the working groups' recommendations to the two leaders.
Israel already informed France several weeks ago that it opposes the foreign ministers' summit and it will not participate if it occurs. Accordingly, the French opted to hold the event without Israeli and Palestinian representatives and to invite leaders from both sides to a tripartite meeting with Hollande soon after. The French understand that current Israeli-Palestinian relations do not allow the renewal of direct negotiations at this time, and thus wanted to take advantage of the tripartite meeting to present the foreign ministers' conclusions and the international community's proposals and ideas to Netanyahu and Abbas.
French Ambassador to Israel Helene Le Gal spoke earlier this week with Israel's acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel, extending an invitation to the Paris summit. Netanyahu has stressed several times that he would be willing to meet Abbas anywhere and anytime without preconditions, so the French hope that the prime minister will be receptive to the invitation. Abbas had already given his consent to the tripartite meeting.