The increasingly embattled Netanyahu, who is the subject of two police corruption investigations, described the conference – at which about 70 countries will take part – as “a relic of the past … before the future sets in” in an apparent reference to Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the US next week.
The prime minister’s comments are the latest in a series of interventions on the diplomatic front in recent weeks that have become ever more explosive since the UN security council a motion before Christmas that called the Jewish settlement of the occupied Palestinian territories a “flagrant violation” of international law.
“This conference is a fraud, a Palestinian scam under French auspices, whose goal is to lead to the adoption of additional anti-Israeli positions,” said Netanyahu at the beginning of a meeting with the Norwegian foreign minister, Børg Brende, on Thursday.
“This pushes peace backwards. It’s not going to obligate us. It’s a relic of the past. It’s a last gasp of the past before the future sets in.”
The conference on Sunday will take place five days before the US presidential inauguration and is seen as part of recent diplomatic moves to “Trump-proof” the ailing Oslo peace process – and its two-state solution – against a new and unpredictable era in Washington.
While Israelis and Palestinians will not take part in the main gathering, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to meet the French president, François Hollande, on Monday to be briefed on the proceedings.
Hollande said on Wednesday the conference was aimed at ensuring the support of the international community for the survival of the two-state solution as a reference for future direct negotiations.
“I can see that this [the peace process] has been weakened on the ground and in the minds. If we let it wither away then it would be a risk for Israeli’s security to which we are resolutely attached,” he said
“However, I am realistic on what this conference can achieve. Peace will only be done by the Israelis and Palestinians and by nobody else. Only bilateral negotiations can succeed.”
Israel is fearful that any statement adopted there could be quickly adopted by the UN security council in second resolution before Trump’s inauguration.
Netanyahu comments – which echo previous remarks his made on the matter – suggests he plans to bet his country’s future diplomacy almost exclusively on his relationship with an incoming US administration he anticipates will be fiercely pro-Israel.
Netanyahu has increasingly appeared to borrow heavily both from Trump’s own rhetorical palette – and confrontational approach – not least during the US election campaign when the then Republican nominee suggested repeatedly the election was in danger of being “rigged” by Democrats.
The Palestinians have welcomed the multilateral approach, saying years of negotiations have not ended Israel’s occupation of the West Bank which will mark its 50th anniversary later this year.
The Paris conference comes amid widespread international frustration over an Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has been at a standstill since the last US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
It also follows hard on the heels of the landmark UN security council resolution, passed on 23 December, that calls for a halt to Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territory. In a rare move then, the US declined to use its veto and abstained, allowing the resolution to pass 14-0.
Palestinians have also made clear their hopes from the conference, including possible moves by countries towards formal recognition of a Palestinian state.
Briefing journaists about the conference earlier this week Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official said he hoped it would prove that Israel could not “continue to be above the law. Israel has to be punished for not accepting the international resolutions and for not accepting the UN security council.”
Author: Peter Beaumont