Israeli PM urges talks with Palestinians

Updated: 2013-06-22 09:27


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WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday called for fresh negotiations with the Palestinians without any preconditions.

The hawkish leader, in an interview with the Washington Post, also called Palestinian's refusal to recognize a Jewish state the core of continuing conflict between the two sides.

"I think we should stop negotiating about the negotiations. I think we should just get on with it," the prime minister said about the ongoing push by US Secretary of State John Kerry for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian direct talks which were deadlocked since September 2010.

"We should enter immediately into negotiations without preconditions," he added. "That's been my view for the last four years, and I hope it becomes the Palestinian view."

Kerry will return to Amman, Jordan and Jerusalem later this month, his fifth trip to the region since taking office in February, to meet with Palestinian and Israeli officials to renew his efforts to restart the peace process.

The Palestinians demand a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem before they will return to the negotiating table. The last direct talks collapsed only weeks later due to Israel's refusal to extend a ban on settlement activities.

"Now there are many things that I need to successfully close a deal, but I don't ask them of Abu Mazen in advance," Netanyahu said, using another name of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The prime minister cited Israel's failure to secure peace and security in its withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza.

"I think placing preconditions before negotiations is the quickest way to undermine peace," he said in the interview done in Jerusalem. "That's what has been done in the past four years and we've gotten nowhere."

"It's time to grapple head-on with the issues and negotiate," he added. "You can't end negotiations unless you begin them. And you can't begin them if you continually negotiate about the terms to begin negotiations."

The status of Jerusalem, borders, security and refugees are among the core issues facing the Palestinians and the Israelis in their decades-old peace process.

"The real reason is the persistent refusal to recognize a sovereign Jewish state in any boundary. That was and remains the core of this conflict," Netanyahu said.

"To solve this, the Palestinians will have to recognize the Jewish state just as we recognize a Palestinian state," he added.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes in what is now Israel. After the 1948 war between Israel and Arab states, the UN General Assembly issued a resolution granting the right of return to the Palestinians.

Israel has rejected the return of the refugees and their descendants on the grounds that possible demographic changes will result in the country's loss of its Jewish nature.

"The reason we need to solve the Palestinian conflict is not because it would substantially improve our standing in the world," Netanyahu remarked. "The reason we have to resolve it is that we don't want a bi-national state. I don't want a bi-national state."

"It's the balance between effecting a separation between the Israelis and Palestinians and assuring that the Palestinian state does not become an Iranian outpost that concerns my efforts vis-a-vis the Palestinian-Israeli peace process," he said.