Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sharply rebuffed what he described as an international attempt to dictate the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal ahead of talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was visiting the region to advance a French-led initiative.
With peace talks stalled for more than a year, France has been sounding out the possibility of relaunching the process with the help of Arab states, the European Union and UN Security Council members, supported by a Security Council resolution that would set parameters for new negotiations on Palestinian statehood and perhaps establish a time frame for them.
Mr Fabius met Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and a committee of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday. He warned Israel and the Palestinians that the stalemate in the peace process risked setting the conflict “ablaze”, adding: “We have to do the maximum so that the two sides restart negotiations.”
At the start of the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, Mr Netanyahu said: “The way to reach agreements is only through bilateral negotiations, and we strongly reject attempts to force international diktat on us in regard to both security and peace.” While he did not refer directly to the French proposal, his remarks were clearly timed to relate to it.
These international efforts, Mr Netanyahu added, failed to address “the security needs of the state of Israel and our other national interests”.
Mr Fabius met the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah before his meeting with Mr Netanyahu.
Underlining the deep rift between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, Riad al-Malki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, said shortly before the meeting in Ramallah that it was “late for the international community” to be taking up its responsibilities 48 years after the Israeli occupation of territories it captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and which the Palestinians claim for their state.
Dr Malki told the official Voice of Palestine radio station that the French proposal was still at the stage of “ideas” and that there may not be any real European movement until September.
During talks with Mr Netanyahu on Sunday, Mr Fabius said it was unclear whether an international deal could be reached on Iran’s nuclear program by a June 30 deadline.
Mr Fabius was scheduled to meet Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday to assess where Iran stands ahead of the final round of talks on its nuclear program, which begin later in the week.
Mr Netanyahu urged Mr Fabius to “stand firm and prevent a bad deal” with Iran.
The man Mr Netanyahu has put in charge of talks with the Palestinian Authority, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, could find his next encounter with US officials rather awkward after his wife published an “inappropriate joke” about US President Barack Obama on her Twitter account, only to later delete it and apologise.
“Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak,” Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes wrote to her 74,400 followers.
Online shock, condemnation and accusations of racism later led her to delete the incriminating tweet.
“I apologise, that was a stupid joke somebody told me,” she wrote on her @JudyMozes Twitter account in English.
“President Obama I shouldn’t have written the inappropriate joke I heard. I like people no matter about their race and religion,” she also wrote, addressing the US leader directly.
“Sorry if I caused any offence to anyone. I hope I will stay married when my husband will land and hear what I did,” she added.
A Palestinian resident of the Israeli-occupied West Bank stabbed an Israeli paramilitary police officer in the neck and chest, severely wounding him, at a busy gateway to the Old City in occupied east Jerusalem on Sunday. The wounded officer shot the assailant, who was said to be about 18 years old. Both were transferred to hospital in critical condition, according to the police.
The episode came two days after an Israeli man was killed and another injured by a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank, adding to fears of an uptick in violence during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began on Thursday.