Palestinians spurn direct talks with Israel

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This file photo shows Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah speaking to reporters in Ramallah.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has dismissed an Israeli proposal for direct negotiations instead of a French multilateral “peace” initiative, calling it an attempt to “buy time.”
Hamdallah made the comments as he met French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has held talks in Israel and the Palestinian territories this week to push Paris’s initiative.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the plan and called for direct negotiations.
“Direct negotiations with Netanyahu in the past have proven to be fruitless. Why should we repeat the same mistakes?” Jamal Dajani, director of communications for Hamdallah, said on Monday.
He made the remarks after Netanyahu rejected the French initiative, telling Valls that direct negotiations were the sole option.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, in al-Quds (Jerusalem), May 23, 2016.

Netanyahu said he would be willing to meet Abbas “in Paris or wherever,” and hold face-to-face negotiations without any third party present.
Abbas had already hailed the French initiative to host the foreign ministerial conference on June 3, but stressed that neither Israeli nor Palestinian delegations must be in attendance.
Barak: Israel cabinet must be brought down
Netanyahu’s call for direct talks comes as he is set to unveil a new cabinet described as the most extremist in Israel’s history. 
Notorious politician Avigdor Lieberman is widely mentioned as the new minister of military affairs after Moshe Ya’alon stepped down on Friday saying he had lost trust in Netanyahu.
On Monday, former PM Ehud Barak denounced the planned reshuffle, saying it showed the new cabinet is planting the “seeds of fascism” and “needs to be brought down.”
Speaking in an interview with Israeli Channel 10 television, Barak described Ya’alon’s removal and his replacement with Lieberman as a “purge,” saying “it should be a red light for all of us.” 

Former Israeli PM Ehud Barak gestures as he talks with foreign journalists in al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP) 

“What has happened is a hostile takeover of the Israeli leadership by dangerous elements. And it’s just the beginning,” Barak said.
“This administration needs to be brought down before it brings all of us down,” the former Israeli prime minister said, adding the foreign officials he speaks to are no longer supportive of Israel.
“There are no serious leaders left in the world who believe the Israeli administration,” Barak said.
Moshe Arens, a former military affairs and foreign minister, also wrote in Haaretz newspaper that the cabinet reshuffle has wide-ranging ramifications.
“Yaalon’s ouster is likely to be a turning point in Israel’s political history. A political earthquake is in the offing. It may take a little time, but it is coming. The law of unforeseen consequences is at work,” he said.

Hawkish Israeli Minister of Military Affairs Avigdor Lieberman talks to the press during his Yisrael Beiteinu party meeting in al-Quds (Jerusalem), May 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

A long-serving military affairs correspondent on Israel’s Channel 2 television network Roni Daniel also said, “I cannot urge my children to stay here, because it is a place that is not nice to be in.”  
Lieberman is an extremist Israeli politician who has previously caused controversy by calling for “disloyal” Israeli Arabs to be beheaded.
He has also vowed the introduction of the death penalty for those accused of carrying out attacks against Israelis as among his top priorities.
A source in Israel’s Likud party said Monday the capital punishment which Lieberman is pressing for would only apply to Palestinians and effectively excludes illegal Israeli settlers.
The source added that Palestinians are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, while Israelis charged with similar crimes against Palestinians are tried in civilian courts and rarely charged.

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