Netanyahu: Paris summit will harm peace prospects

(JTA) – The international peace conference that begins Friday in Paris will harm chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace and “radicalize Palestinian demands,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said two days before its start.

In a speech Wednesday at Bar-Ilan University’s medical school graduation, Netanyahu criticized the Paris effort and repeated a call for direct talks “without preconditions,” the Times of Israel reported.

“That’s how it was when we achieved peace with Jordan and also with Egypt, and that’s how it has to be with the Palestinians,” he said.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians have been invited to the conference initiated by France, but they are expected to be included at follow-up sessions. While Netanyahu has opposed the summit, which seeks to restart the peace process, the Palestinians have voiced support for it.

“If the countries gathering this week in Paris really want to advance peace, they must join my call to Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] to enter into direct negotiations,” he said. “That’s the only path to peace.”

On Monday, Netanyahu and his new defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, partially endorsed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, earning criticism from members of the Jewish Home party, which is also in the governing coalition.

Netanyahu said the Arab peace plan “contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians.”

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