In an unexpectedly short speech before AIPAC's policy conference delegates late Monday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated his desire to pursue Mideast peace talks, and voiced his concern over Iran's progressing nuclear program.
The five-and-a-half minute address was transmitted via satellite from Jerusalem to a crowd made up of the ambassadors of 66 countries and over half of the U.S. members of congress.
After thanking AIPAC activists for their work and the Congress members for their support, PM Netanyahu commented on where he saw Mideast peace talks: "Next week I'll be visiting Egypt with President Mubarak and I plan to discuss both matters with him - cooperation between the Arab world and cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians."
"We seek normalization of economic ties and diplomatic ties," Netanyahu said. "We want peace with the Arab world, but we also want peace with the Palestinians. That peace eluded us for more than 30 years. Six successive prime ministers of Israel and two American presidents have not succeeded in achieving this peace," Netanyahu added.
"I believe it's possible to achieve, but I think it requires a fresh approach," Netanyahu said, adding that the new approach he suggests is "pursuing a triple track towards peace between Israel and Palestinians, a political track, a security track and economic track. The [political] track means that we resume peace negotiations without any delay, the sooner the better, without any preconditions."
The premier also called for "continued cooperation with the Jordanians and the Palestinian Authority. This is something we believe in and something we can advance in a joint effort".
"The economic track means that we are prepared to move forward to remove as many obstacles as possible to the advancement of the Palestinian economy. We want to work with the Palestinian economy not as a substitute for political negotiations, but as a booster. I want to see that the Palestinian youngsters have a future. I don't want them to be hostages of cult of death, despair and hate. I want them to have jobs," Netanyahu added.
"This means we can give them a future that means prosperity for all and it proved to be successful in many parts of the world. I believe that this triple track is a realistic path to peace, and I believe that with the cooperation of President Obama and President Abbas we can defy the skeptics, we can surprise the world."
"Peace will not come without security, so I want to be very clear - we shall never compromise on Israel's security. Second, for a final peace settlement to be achieved, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. They must recognize Israel as a nation state of the Jewish people."
Commenting on Iran's wishes to gain nuclear capabilities, Netanyahu stated he felt the issue was of grave concern for both Arabs and Israelis:
"There is something happening today in the Middle East, and I can say that for the first time in my lifetime I believe that Arabs and Jews see the common danger. This wasn't always the case."
The prime minister also said: "The challenges today present great opportunities as well. The common danger is echoed by Arab leaders throughout the Middle East, Europeans, by many responsible governments around the world. I can put it in one sentence: 'Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.'"
Netanyahu also remarked on his upcoming meeting with Obama, saying: "I've met President Obama, I respect him and I look forward to seeing him in Washington in a couple of weeks. We plan to continue our common quest for prosperity and for peace."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now