JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready to start “direct, bilateral negotiations” with the Palestinians.
The invitation, which Netanyahu has repeatedly extended, was included in a statement issued Thursday by the Prime Minister’s Office under the heading “Israel’s Response to the French Initiative.”
The French government announced last week that it will convene a summit of foreign ministers in Paris next month as a start to renewing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The meeting on May 30 will not include representatives of Israel and the Palestinians.
The summit is set to be the run-up to an international peace conference to be held in the French capital this summer that would include Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“Israel adheres to its position that the best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations,” the statement issued Thursday said. “Israel is ready to begin them immediately without preconditions. Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from direct negotiations.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault angered Israel in January for threatening to recognize a Palestinian state if a Paris-hosted conference failed to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Ayrault backtracked on his statements last month, saying the conference would not “automatically” spur any action.