Israel and France in murky waters on peace plan

A top Israeli official said that French support of a UNESCO resolution rejected Jerusalem's ‘historic Jewish connection’

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A top Israeli official on Friday reiterated the country’s opposition to a French attempt to resurrect the peace process with the Palestinians, ahead of a visit by France’s foreign minister.

Israeli foreign ministry director general Dore Gold told The Jerusalem Post newspaper Friday that the French proposal had “many problems.”

Gold cited the support last month by France for a UNESCO resolution that, he said, “rejects the historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem.”

The April 16 resolution by the UN’s cultural body condemned Israel for restricting access of Muslim worshippers to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is also sacred to Jews who call it the Temple Mount.

In the resolution, the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, appears only twice in parentheses.

‘Distorting history’

Israel accused UNESCO of “distorting history” and Gold said because of the vote “it should not come as a surprise that Israel rejects the French initiative and the political horizon it aspires to ultimately expose.”

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has described the wording of the resolution as “unfortunate” but insisted it did not change French policy.

Gold also stressed that if the French initiative included Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, it “would be a very important factor.”

But on the substance, he said the initiative would not get “us any closer to a negotiated solution, and in fact makes a negotiated solution more distant.”

The Israeli government supports a resumption of direct bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, rather than a multilateral approach.

Revive peace talks

Paris is expected to hold an international ministerial meeting on May 30 to try to revive peace talks that have been frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014.

The Israelis and Palestinians will not be invited to the meeting, which is aimed at discussing ways in which international players can encourage peace.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday in Jerusalem before travelling to Ramallah to meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.