Netanyahu reportedly agrees to Arab peace push, wants it to supplant France’s

Julie Wiener

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Jerusalem, May 23, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Jerusalem, May 23, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly consented to regional efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which he wants to supplant the French-led international push that just launched.

Citing a Channel 2 TV report, The Times of Israel reported that Netanyahu “said yes” Thursday to a new Egyptian-Saudi Arabia endeavor for regional progress toward peace.

Netanyahu spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday, shortly before the Paris peace summit, and the conversation was a reason the summit’s concluding statement was vague and set no date for a follow-up meeting, according to the report.

Netanyahu also called France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault soon after the summit ended, and advised France and its allies to press Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to restart direct talks with Israel, the report said. Pushing a new international process now could threaten the success of the Arab effort already underway, he reportedly said.

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Netanyahu has for weeks been saying that the Paris summit is the wrong approach and that direct talks are the only effective strategy for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dore Gold, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel earlier this week that by improving ties with Arab states, Israel hopes to push the Palestinian peace process ahead.

“The conventional wisdom for the last few decades has been that a solution to the Palestinian issues will result in improved ties between Israel and the Arab world,” he said. “But there is a serious basis for thinking that, actually, the sequence is exactly the opposite — that by improving ties with the Arab states, we set the stage for a future breakthrough with the Palestinians.”

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister used Friday’s summit in Paris as a platform for promoting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The Saudi minister said the initiative “does not need changing or adjusting, it is on the table as is.”

While Netanyahu has voiced support for parts of the initiative, he has emphasized that it would merely be a starting point and that Israel would not agree to all of its terms.

The Arab Peace Initiative calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories gained in the 1967 Six Day War and to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution to the Palestinian refugee problem. In exchange, the Arab world would normalize ties with Israel.

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