JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said it was struggling to “understand the logic” of a French peace initiative favored by the Palestinians after Israeli foreign ministry officials met with a French envoy in Jerusalem on Monday.
France is lobbying for an international peace conference before May that would outline incentives and give guarantees for Israelis and Palestinians to resume face-to-face talks before August and try to end a decades-long conflict.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed the initiative and the international support it would bring but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has voiced opposition and has insisted on direct talks between the parties without pre-conditions and prefers less international involvement.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it had “submitted questions to understand the initiative’s logic” during a meeting between France’s envoy, Pierre Vimont, a former French ambassador to the United States, and Foreign Ministry Director-General, Dore Gold.
“The Israeli side emphasized the importance of direct, bilateral negotiations, with no prior conditions between the parties and the (Palestinian Authority’s) responsibility to combat terror and incitement,” the ministry statement said.
Last year France failed to get the United States on board for a U.N. Security Council resolution to set parameters for talks between the two sides and set a deadline for a deal. Israeli-Palestinian talks have been frozen since April, 2014.
Israel was particularly worried by the stance of former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius to recognize a Palestinian state automatically if the initiative failed but this has been toned down.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the United States was looking for a way to break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, acknowledging that by itself it could not find a solution.
Having twice failed to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Obama administration is discussing ways to help preserve the prospect of an increasingly threatened two-state solution, U.S. officials have told Reuters.
One French diplomat has said the initiative by Paris was required because of the risk of a “powder keg” exploding.
Israel and the Palestinian territories have seen a months-long surge in violence, partly fueled by Palestinian frustration over the collapse of the talks, more Israeli settlements on land they seek for a future state and that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.
Israelis have been angered by Islamist calls for Israel’s destruction.
Since October, Israeli forces have killed at least 184 Palestinians, 124 of whom Israel says were assailants. Most others were shot dead during violent protests. Palestinian street attacks have killed 28 Israelis and two U.S. citizens.
Editing by Louise Ireland