The Israeli PM has refused a diplomatic gesture, and then incensed the Palestinians further with provocative comments to the media in France.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to start the peace process, saying it was up to Palestine to “come to grips with this reality”.
Mr Macron implored the Israeli leader to offer an olive branch to the Palestinians as violence continues to escalate in the region as a result of Donald Trump’s declaration that the US would recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel.
He asked his counterpart to institute an Israeli freeze on settlement building as a gesture of peace, after reaffirming that he rejected Mr Trump’s position.
But Mr Netanyahu was uncompromising, saying: “The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we will move towards peace.”
He said denying the “millennial connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem” would be “absurd”.
“You can read it in a very fine book – it’s called the Bible,” he continued. “You can read it after the Bible. You can hear it in the history of Jewish communities throughout our diaspora… Where else is the capital of Israel, but in Jerusalem?”
Speaking to media in Paris on Sunday, in his first foreign trip since Mr Trump gave Israel his full support, Mr Netanyahu said he expected France to accept Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, just as Israel accepted Paris as the capital city of France.
This joint media conference followed a fiery address from Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At a political congress, he called Israel an “invader state”, and a “terror state”, and declared that Turkey “will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children”.
When asked about Mr Erdogan’s comments, Mr Netanyahu replied: “I’m not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villages in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, helps Iran go around international sanctions and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, to kill innocent people.”
Violence between Israel and Palestine soars
Following Mr Trump’s announcement, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the US President was “pushing this region towards chaos [and] violence”.
Hamas leader Ismael Haniya then called for a third uprising against Israel, and protests and demonstrations quickly descended into violent riots between Palestinians and Israeli military.
According to the latest reports, two Palestinians have been killed and 800 injured, while a video is circulating of an Israeli security guard being stabbed at the main Jerusalem bus station by a 24-year-old Palestinian.
Mr Netanyahu’s comments in Paris certainly won’t help ease tensions. They come after the Trump administration asked Israel to temper its celebrations after wide-spread condemnation from world leaders.