President Emmanuel Macron said he doesn’t intend to immediately revive past French Middle East peace initiatives, as Donald Trump’s administration stood behind his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there.
“It is preferable not to multiply initiatives because they end up cannibalizing each other,” Macron said Sunday at a press conference in Paris with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We are favorable for waiting weeks, months, to see what emerges.”
Netanuyahu and Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, both said 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 U.S. ally Abu Dhabi said it “extended a lifeline to terrorists,” and several Middle East leaders that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence planned to meet later this month said they now won’t see him.
Haley, in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” 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 criticizing 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 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.
In Lebanon, protesters tried to break into the U.S. embassy in Beirut on Sunday.
Netanyahu said his comments weren’t 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 recognizes 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, said Jarrod Agen, Pence’s deputy chief of staff, in an email.
“It’s unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region, but the administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan,” he said.
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 wouldn’t 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.
Previous French leaders, feeling the U.S. 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 Sunday he’s 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 scheduled to meet foreign ministers from the 28-nation EU in Brussels on Monday.