Netanyahu Tells French FM: Difficult for Israel to Treat Paris Peace Initiative as Unbiased

French support of UNESCO Temple Mount vote 'casts shadow' on Paris peace summit, Netanyahu says ahead of cabinet meeting.

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Netanyahu shakes hands with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, May 15, 2016.
Netanyahu shakes hands with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, May 15, 2016.Credit: Menahem Kahana, AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that Israel finds it difficult to treat France's peace effort as unbiased in light of Paris' support of the UNESCO Temple Mount resolution.

Ayrault, who is visiting Israel, met with Netanyahu earlier on Sunday and is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on the afternoon. Ayrault will hold a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport, before leaving Israel later in the day.

"I told him that the scandalous resolution that was approved by UNESCO, with the support of France, that doesn't recognize millennia-long connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount, casts a shadow over the fairness of any summit France is trying to convene," Netanyahu said ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting. The prime minister said Ayrault told him that "this resolution was the result of a misunderstanding and that he will personally see that it doesn't repeat itself."

Netanyahu noted that in his meeting with Ayrault, he made it clear that the only way to move forward with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is through direct negotiations without preconditions.

"History shows that it was in this way that we reached peace with Egypt and Jordan," Netanyahu said. "Any other attempt delays peace and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict, which is the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people."

The prime minister further added that he spoke on Saturday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has yet to decide whether to declare his support for the French peace summit to be held in a few weeks, and confirm his attendance. Netanyahu did not say if the French peace initiative came up in his conversation with Kerry, and chose to make public that the two spoke about a Holocaust denial cartoon contest, which is being held in Iran.

"Our problem with Iran," Netanyahu said, "is not only its aggressive policy in the region, but the values on which it is based – denying the Holocaust, mocking the Holocaust, and preparing another Holocaust. I spoke to Kerry and told him that all of the world's countries must condemn this."

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