Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: REUTERS
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: REUTERS

Jerusalem — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called this weekend’s Middle East peace conference in Paris "rigged", with his government refusing to play any role in the meeting.

"It’s a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances," he said 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."

Sunday’s conference, to be attended by about 70 nations, is aimed at exploring ways to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Israel has rejected the conference and has called for bilateral talks.

The Palestinians have welcomed the multilateral approach, saying years of negotiations have not ended Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

The conference comes on the heels of a landmark UN Security Council resolution passed on December 23 calling for a halt to Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territory. In a rare move, the US declined to use its veto and abstained, allowing the measure to pass 14-0.

Israel fears this weekend’s conference will produce measures that could then be taken to the Security Council and approved before January 20 — when Donald Trump takes over as US president.

Trump has signalled a far more favourable policy towards Israel and called for Barack Obama’s administration to veto the December 23 resolution.

Israeli settlements are built on land the Palestinians view as part of their future state and are seen as illegal under international law.


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