Israel rejects \'international dictates\' amid calls for renewed peace talks

Friday 19/06/2015
Nervous response to France peace initiative

RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected "international dictates" ahead of a visit by France's top diplomat, with Paris advocating a UN resolution laying out parameters for peace talks.

With negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians stalled for more than a year, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Sunday ahead of talks with Netanyahu.

The separate meetings in Ramallah and Jerusalem were part of a regional tour by Fabius aimed at reviving peace talks.

France has argued in favour of a UN resolution that would guide negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian state and which could include a timeframe for talks.

Ahead of Fabius's arrival in Jerusalem, Netanyahu hit out at international diplomatic efforts to impose proposals which he said neglected to address vital Israeli security concerns.

"The only way to reach an agreement is through bilateral negotiations, and we will forcibly reject any attempts to force upon us international dictates," Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.

"In the international proposals that have been suggested to us -- which they are actually trying to force upon us -- there is no real reference to Israel's security needs or our other national interests."

Fabius sought to respond to such concerns after his meeting with Abbas, saying France would avoid imposing a solution "that no one would accept."

"We must both guarantee Israel's security and at the same time give Palestinians the right to have a state," Fabius told journalists at a joint news conference with Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki.

Malki welcomed France's efforts, but said he doubted a deal was possible with the current rightwing Israeli government, which he labelled "extremist."

During a visit to Cairo on Saturday, Fabius warned that continued Israeli settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state would damage chances of a final deal.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been comatose since a major US push for a final deal ended in failure in April 2014.

Israel says the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward.

But the Palestinians blame the collapse on Israel's settlement building and the government's refusal to release veteran prisoners.

The relationship between the two sides remains severely strained, prompting the Palestinians to step up efforts on the international stage to seek their promised state.

Such efforts have included a push to open criminal proceedings against Israel before the International Criminal Court.

Tensions have been high and on Sunday a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli border policeman outside Jerusalem's Old City, with the officer managing to shoot his attacker, leaving him in critical condition.

It was the latest in a string of so-called lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians.

The United States has consistently defended Israel before the UN Security Council and any French resolution must be accepted by Washington to avoid a veto.

President Barack Obama's administration, however, has signalled that it could be swayed given Netanyahu's recent comments regarding a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu sparked international concern when he ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state while campaigning for the March 17 general election, though he later backtracked.

France could unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state should the peace process remain moribund, a possibility that could pile further pressure on Israel.

France's diplomatic efforts come against the backdrop of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, with Israel firmly opposing the deal currently on the table.

Iran and the P5+1 powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- agreed in April on the main outlines of what would be a historic agreement scaling down Tehran's nuclear programme.

The world powers and Iran set themselves a deadline of June 30 to finalise what would be a highly complex accord.

Some have argued that a window of opportunity may arise after the conclusion of the Iran talks for France to submit a resolution at the United Nations.

They argue that the United States would be unlikely to support moves beforehand that could impact negatively on the nuclear negotiations.