Hollande: Israel must make ‘gesture’ on settlements
Remarks by French President come after Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest over Israel’s settlement building
France expects Israel to make “gestures” over its construction of settlements on land the Palestinians want for a future state, President Francois Hollande said in Jerusalem on Sunday.
His remarks came just three days after the entire Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest over continued Israeli settlement building which is threatening to sabotage the US-backed direct peace talks which began in late July.
“There are still gestures that need to be made (by both sides),” Hollande said, acknowledging that Israel had already taking conciliatory steps by releasing 52 veteran Palestinian prisoners in line with its commitments to the peace process.
“Some gestures have already been started by Israel -- the freeing of prisoners,” he said.
“Other gestures are expected, especially in the area of settlements,” he said in remarks to the press with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres.
Hollande said he would raise the issue of “gestures” expected from the Palestinian side when he travels to Ramallah on Monday for talks with president Mahmud Abbas.
The negotiators’ resignation, which has not been accepted by Abbas, came two days after Israel announced its largest-ever batch of 20,000 new settler homes.
But the announcement was quickly scrapped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on grounds it was creating a needless confrontation with the international community at a time when Israel was trying to get across an urgent message about stopping a nuclear Iran.
Previous direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed just weeks after they began in September 2010 in a bitter dispute over settlement construction.