Kerry sought to reassure PM over Paris conference
US secretary of state tells Netanyahu he is working to soften wording of Paris communiqué; French President Hollande opens conference by listing factors that constitute a 'threat' to the two-state solution, including settlement-growth and terrorist, which Israeli deputy foreign minister considers his equating the two.
Israel said on Sunday that US Secretary of State John Kerry had sought to reassure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Middle East peace conference being held in Paris, which neither Israel nor the Palestinians are attending.
Netanyahu's office issued a statement on Sunday saying that "Kerry called Netanyahu to tell him about the moves the US was taking at the conference to soften the wording of the Paris communiqué."
It added that the Israeli leader had replied by saying that "Israel had already suffered damage after the US did not veto a Security Council resolution (last month), and it should not be compounded."
The statement said that Kerry committed to Netanyahu that there would be no resulting consequences to the conference, neither at the United Nations Security Council or at the conference itself and that "the US would oppose any proposal that may be put forward to the Security Council."
French President François Hollande earlier opened the Paris Peace summit on Sunday by insisting that a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was still valid but threatened by terrorism and settlements.
Addressing representatives from some 70 countries, including key European and Arab states as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council,Hollande declared, "The two-state solution is not the dream of a system of yesterday. It still remains the objective of the international community."
The president—whose term ends this year and who will not be seeking re-election—added, "It's not a matter of dictating to the parties the terms of a deal… Only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace; no one will do it in their place." His pronouncement was an indirect response to critics who oppose a multilateral approach to negotiations.
Hollande told the representatives that the two-state solution seemed to be in danger. He detailed that it was "physically (threatened) on the ground by the acceleration of settlements, politically by the weakening of the political peace camps, and morally due to the growing distrust between the parties and which is certainly being exploited by extremists. It is finally (threatened) by the terrorists themselves, who have always feared the perspective of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
"The terrorist attack that struck Jerusalem last January 8 is the most abject manifestation thereof, and it deserves to be condemned by everyone."
Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely severely criticized Hollande's list of threats that day, suggesting that he was drawing a parallel amongst all the factors.
"The parallel made between terrorism and the building of settlements is a moral distortion," argued Hotovely.
"While Israel continues to promote life by building, Palestinian terrorists glorify death by murdering innocent people. When brutal terror hit the streets of Paris, did French leaders wonder if it was due to mistaken French policies? Those who do not condemn terrorism against Israel and compare it to the building of settlements pull the carpet out from under the international struggle against radical Islamic terrorism," she concluded.
Despite Hotovely's claims, Hollande did indeed condemn the January 8 terrorist attack the afternoon after it took place. The French president's statement termed it "odious" and emphasized France's "commitment to the security of Israel" and that his country would "relentlessly continue its fight against terrorism."
The Israeli government had made clear that it would not participate in the conference and argued that "internationalizing" the conflict would constitute an additional obstacle to peace instead of a perspective for progress.
On the other hand, the Israeli non-governmental organization Peace Now, welcomed the Paris Peace Conference as "an importance step in preserving the two state solution and keeping it on the international agenda."
"Just like UNSC resolution 2334 and US Secretary of State John Kerry's speech, Peace Now views the Paris Conference as a way of supporting Israel while opposing the occupation and the settlements which lead to human rights violations and endanger the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Israelis must view the conference as supporting the long-term interests of Israel," stated the NGO.
The group further argued that Netanyahu's claims the conference is an "international fraud" are hypocritical due to his statements supporting the two-state solution while "doing everything in his power to prevent it on the ground."
Israel's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Amb. Danny Danon, publicly criticized the conference, tweeting, "The Paris Conference is so detached from reality that it has extended a hand towards Palestinian obstructionism instead of towards peace. Rather than advancing a joint effort to battle global terrorism, the conference focused obsessively on Israel. We'll work with the new US administration to undo the damage caused by the (Security Council) resolution & these other initiatives."
Tamar Shabak, Itamar Eichner, J. S. Herzog and Ilana Messika/TPS contributed to this report.