For three days, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted in Paris Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he took part in a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the deportation of thousands of French Jews to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Sunday marked the day of official talks between the two leaders, which saw them hold a meeting that lasted more than two hours at the Elysee Palace.
The discussions focused on the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations that have been halted for three years.
The media speculated whether Macron would adopt the initiative of the previous French government, but the president, when addressing reporters, was brief in calling all sides to resume negotiations in order to reach a solution that is based on two states that can live side by side.
“This is the approach that represents the firm French diplomatic line that I commit to,” Macron added.
With this, he has altered Paris’ role that had previously leaned towards taking the lead in launching initiatives, to simply saying that it backs “all diplomatic efforts as specified by international agreements on peace.”
The French president also eased the harsh tone that was previously directed by France against Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, sufficing by saying that “it is important to make sure that the necessary conditions to resume the negotiations and reach peace are not thwarted by the facts on the ground.”
He then “reminded” Netanyahu of his and France’s stance on settlements.
The truth of the matter is that Macron avoided focusing on contentious issues in his statements to the public. He knows, on the one hand, that the Israeli PM has fought against past French initiatives. On the other, he is aware that any wrong step would put him at odds with the right-wing members of his government who advocate increasing settlement building.
French diplomatic sources said that one should not confuse what is said in the open and what is said behind closed doors.
For his part, Netanyahu did not address the settlement issue or the negotiations in his statements. Playing on Macron’s words, the Israeli official said that opposing Zionism is a form of anti-semitism, to conclude that terrorism against Israel is due to the Palestinian refusal to recognize it as a Jewish state.
The French sources said that Macron is not seeking to take initiatives in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but he wants Paris to play the role of “facilitator” to help resume negotiations. In addition, should it make a peace proposal, it will only do so after the US vision on the issue is revealed.
Addressing regional developments, Macron said that he “shares” Netanyahu’s concerns over “Hezbollah’s” armament in southern Lebanon.
He stressed that France will contribute to supporting “stability in Lebanon by respecting all of its sects and by relying on diplomatic initiatives.”
Macron and Netanyahu also tackled the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the French leader said that Paris is “diligent” to whether Tehran will accurately implement it.