Thu Dec 8, 2016 2:43AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by AFP)

Israel has rejected outright a French proposal for a multilateral conference aimed at reviving talks with the Palestinians, who have welcomed the prospect.

France had gathered world’s foreign ministers in June to discuss the potential relaunch of the process in the absence of Israelis and Palestinians. This time, it has been pushing to hold a conference with their inclusion that would be followed by a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, however, asserted on Wednesday that he would only meet with Abbas if Paris abandoned the initiative for the conference.

"Netanyahu told [French President Francois] Hollande that if there will not be an international conference in Paris, he will come to meet Abu Mazen (Abbas) for direct talks without preconditions," the Israeli premier said in a statement.

"Israel will not participate in an international conference that will not contribute to achieving peace," it added.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, however, said, "We are determined more than ever to do everything to implement our initiative. The sooner the better."

Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the Palestinians welcomed "any French effort to salvage the faltering political process."

Previous talks between the two sides have invariably foundered on Israel’s insistence on expanding illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Netanyahu’s hardline Likud party has, meanwhile, forwarded a hugely-controversial proposed legislation to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, that would legalize some 4,000 settler units built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank upon ratification by the lawmakers.

A Palestinian man tries to stop work by an Israeli bulldozer during a protest outside the village of Deir Qaddis, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 13, 2016. (Photo by AP)

The United States, Israel’s oldest and strongest ally, Germany, the country least critical among its fellow European nations of Tel Aviv, United Nations officials, and the European Union have warned that signing off on the bill would deliver a body blow to the already-tattered landscape of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict’s resolution.

The Tel Aviv regime has defied international calls to stop its illegal construction activities, with its settlement expansion being among the main reasons behind the collapse of the last round of the so-called Middle East peace talks in 2014.