JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday slammed France's diplomatic plan for an international conference on Middle East peace with recognition of a Palestinian state if talks fail.

Netanyahu called it "mystifying" and counterproductive, arguing that it gives Palestinians no incentive to compromise. "It says, 'We shall hold an international conference but, if it doesn't succeed, we are deciding in advance what the consequence will be -- we shall recognise a Palestinian state'", he told reporters during a visit to Berlin.

"This of course ensures in advance that a conference will fail, because if the Palestinians know that their demands will be accepted they don't need to do anything," he said. He restated his policy that peace will only come as a result of direct bilateral talks between the sides.

He was speaking shortly after France's ambassador to Israel, Patrick Maisonnave, met the political director of the Israeli foreign ministry to explain the initiative. French diplomats have also been conducting talks on the issue with the Palestinians over the past few days.

The plan proposes setting up a support group of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, some Arab and European states and international organisations. It would work in two stages, meeting first without the conflicting parties and then bringing them into the conference around summertime.

To the Israeli government it is anathema. "Everybody is against this idea; when you see both EU foreign minister (Federica) Mogherini and the Palestinians opposing it, it seems there are so many bodies opposed to it," deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely told Israeli public radio.

In a conversation with Netanyahu on Friday Mogherini referred to the need to resolve the conflict "in direct negotiations between the parties."

French sources say the Paris plan is not an alternative to direct talks but seeks to create "a consensus allowing the conditions for the sides to meet." Palestinian officials have welcomed the French initiative, having long argued for an international process to end the Israeli occupation and bring about a two-state solution.

Peace talks collapsed in April 2014 and the situation has since deteriorated, with the prospects of fresh dialogue appearing increasingly remote. A wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks erupted in October, with 25 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean killed, according to an AFP count. At the same time, 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out attacks but others during clashes and demonstrations.