EU Foreign Ministers Accept French Initiative; Israel: “This is a Step Backwards”
Jerusalem (TPS) – The French peace initiative was adopted on Monday by the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, which decided to assemble an international conference by the end of 2016 to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Foreign Affairs Council is comprised of the 28 foreign ministers of the EU’s member states. The ministers wrote in their declaration that that both sides should demonstrate in their actions and policies that they are genuinely committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict in order create trust and set the stage for negotiations that would “end the occupation that started in 1967.”
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized the decision, saying that “peace with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions.”
“International conferences like the one welcomed by the EU council drive peace away by allowing the Palestinians to continue avoiding direct negotiations and compromises,” the statement contended. “This is a regrettable step backwards in the pursuit of peace, to which Israel remains fully committed.”
MK Yair Lapid also commented on the EU declaration on Monday evening, saying that “Israel will not be coerced into negotiations. Nobody will force anything upon Israel. We are a sovereign state and we will decide our fate on our own.”
The French initiative is a proposal by France to launch an international conference on the implementation of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. French officials declared several months ago that they would unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood in the event of the initiative’s failure.
While the initiative has been welcomed by the Palestinians, Israeli leaders have repeatedly rejected it, claiming that negotiations should be direct, without mediation or preconditions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to engage in direct negotiations, a call that has not been embraced.