June 21, 2015 / 9:49 AM / in 2 years

Israeli PM takes aim at French peace initiative

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefaced talks about a French-led peace initiative on Sunday by saying foreign powers were trying to dictate to Israel a deal with the Palestinians.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Dan Balilty/Pool

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, on a two-day visit to the Middle East, was due to meet Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank before seeing Netanyahu later in the day.

Fabius is promoting a French-led initiative that would see the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which collapsed in 2014, relaunched through an international support group comprising Arab states, the European Union and U.N. Security Council members.

Netanyahu, in public remarks to his cabinet, said “international proposals they are trying to force upon us” did not take into account Israel’s security needs.

“They are trying to shunt us toward indefensible borders, ignoring what will happen on the other side,” Netanyahu said, a reference to his often-stated argument that militants would take over areas vacated by Israel unless strong security arrangements were negotiated.

He did not mention the French initiative directly but his remarks, hours before he was to host Fabius, were widely interpreted in Israel as strong criticism of Paris’ proposals.

France has so far focused with Arab states on a possible U.N. Security Council resolution that would set negotiating parameters and establish a time period, possibly 18 months, to complete talks.

“The only way to reach agreements is through negotiations between the two sides, and we will firmly reject attempts to force international dictates on us,” Netanyahu said.

In December, the United States voted against a Palestinian-drafted resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the establishment of a Palestinian state by late 2017.

But earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama said the absence of a peace process and conditions raised by Netanyahu on Palestinian statehood would make it hard for the United States to continue to defend Israel at the United Nations.

The Palestinians have sounded circumspect on Paris’ moves.

“We want the decision to include an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, and a timetable for negotiations and implementation,” President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters on Tuesday.

“If the initiative contains what we need, then it will be welcome, and if it does not, then it will not be welcome and there is no need for it.”

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ali Sawafta; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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