Jerusalem on Thursday responded to the looming French peace initiative, which is to involve an international effort forcing peace talks on Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
As part of the French initiative, an international summit has been announced for May 30, in which ministers from 20 countries will prepare an international summit in the second half of 2016, which would include Israeli and PA leaders.
"Israel adheres to its position that the best way to a solution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct bilateral negotiations," read the Prime Minister's Office statement on the initiative on Thursday.
Restating Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's frequent public offers to negotiate with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the statement said, "Israel is prepared to start them (negotiations) immediately with no preconditions."
"Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from the table of direct negotiations."
The French initiative aims to force discussions based on the 2002 peace initiative, which was rejected by Israel as it demands the Jewish state make enormous withdrawals and accept an influx of "Palestinian refugees," only to receive a paper promise of normalization from Arab states in return.
Back in January the French initiative was announced, and Paris threatened to unilaterally recognize the "state of Palestine" if the talks failed. But the new French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault backtracked on the threat in March, saying France would not “automatically” recognize a Palestinian state if its initiative fails.
However, speaking to Haaretz last Thursday, Ayrault refused to rule out the recognition threat.
"To speak now about what France will do or not do in the case of failure would not be productive. In the case of failure, France will act according to its responsibility," Ayrault said, when asked about the threat.
In light of the French attempt to pressure Israel, the PA announced last week that its push for a UN resolution demanding an end to "Israeli settlement expansion" will be put on hold in order to focus instead on the French proposal.