benjamin netanyahu israel peace process 2016
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects the peace initiative proposed by FranceREUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

Israel has explicitly rejected a peace talk initiative proposed by France to resolve the country's decades old conflict with Palestine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country would prefer bilateral negotiations with Palestine over international arbitration.

"Israel maintains its position that the best way to resolve the conflict is through direct, bilateral negotiations," the Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement issued on Thursday. "Any other diplomatic initiative would distance the Palestinians from direct talks," the statement added.

The Israeli statement follows French foreign minister Jean Marc Ayrault's recent announcement of a summit on 30 May to restart the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Several countries and organisations including the Middle East Quartet — comprising of the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations — were expected to attend the summit.

"The two sides are further apart than ever," Ayrault said, while announcing the summit. "There is no other solution to the conflict than establishing two states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, living side by side in peace and safety with Jerusalem as a shared capital."

Meanwhile, Palestinians have slammed the Israeli rejection of the French proposal. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said, "Israel is challenging the international community and its adherence to the two-state solution. It's occupation is the source of chaos and insecurity," according to an Al Jazeera report.

The peace talks brokered by the United States came to a complete standstill in April 2014 followed by the Gaza conflict in the same year. Around 85 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the conflict that lasted for 51 days. Towards the end of 2015, Palestinian attacks claimed the lives of 28 Israelis and two visiting US nationals, while the Israeli police forces have killed at least 193 Palestinians, says a Reuters report.