French president Emmanuel Macron says Jerusalem decision by the US is a ‘danger to peace’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 6:39am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 6:39am

President Emmanuel Macron said he does not intend to immediately revive past French Middle East peace initiatives, as Donald Trump’s administration stood behind his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.

“It is preferable not to multiply initiatives because they end up cannibalising each other,” Macron said on Sunday at a press conference in Paris with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We are favourable for waiting weeks, months, to see what emerges.”

Netanuyahu and Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, both said on Sunday that the decision on Jerusalem would help the Middle East peace process.

Macron, though, called it “a danger to peace,” the crown prince of US ally Abu Dhabi said it “extended a lifeline to terrorists,” and several Middle East leaders that US Vice President Mike Pence planned to meet later this month said they now will not see him.

Haley said Trump had been careful not to delineate a border that would forestall negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the latter’s call for the eastern part of Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state. “No outside group should decide what the final status looks like,” she said.

Before heading to Paris, Netanyahu accused European leaders of double standards for criticising Trump’s move but not denouncing the violent protests and attacks that ensued in Israel and Israeli-occupied territory over the past few days.

Continuing days of violence that left four Palestinians dead, protesters clashed on Sunday with Israeli troops in the West Bank and a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli security guard in downtown Jerusalem. The army said it had demolished a Palestinian attack tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, the second discovered in recent months.

Palestinian leader Abbas to skip meeting with US Vice-President Pence over Trump’s Jerusalem decision

In Lebanon, protesters tried to break into the US embassy in Beirut on Sunday.

Netanyahu said his comments were not aimed at Macron, who began his remarks by condemning all acts of violence against Israel.

“The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with reality, the sooner we will find peace,” Netanyahu said. He added that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.

“There’s nothing new that Mr Netanyahu considers Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel,” Macron said. “What’s new is that a powerful outside country unilaterally recognises something that goes against international law.”

Pence will still meet with Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on his trip despite being rebuffed by others including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Earlier on Sunday, Macron’s office said the president talked by telephone with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him to tone down his reaction to Trump’s decision. Erdogan called Israel a “state of occupation,” prompting Netanyahu to say he would not accept lectures on morality from a leader who has bombed Kurdish villages, jailed journalists and helped Iran evade international sanctions.

Macron said he shared Erdogan’s opposition to Trump’s move and “underlined the necessity of avoiding negative repercussions throughout the region and contributing to an easing of tensions, to restore chances of peace,” his office said in a statement.

While awaiting any new proposals from the Trump administration, Israel should “make gestures towards the Palestinians,” such as freezing the construction of settlements, Macron said.

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Previous French leaders, feeling the US was stalling action on behalf of its ally, Israel, have tried to start initiatives to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinians, only to give up. Netanyahu said on Sunday he is always willing to sit down and negotiate with Abbas.

Netanyahu, who’s urged other countries to follow Trump’s lead on the contested holy city, is expected to meet foreign ministers from the 28-nation EU in Brussels on Monday.