Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation Tuesday in a New Year's greeting that there was no guarantee negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would succeed, but vowed to aim for a peace agreement by the end of the year.
"This year, after many efforts, direct talks with the Palestinians have begun," the prime minister said, in a video circulated by his bureau ahead of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. "This is an important step in our attempt to advance a peace agreement between us and them."
"I say this is an attempt, because it is not certain that it will succeed. Certainly there are many obstacles, many skeptics and many reasons to doubt, but we must try to reach peace," he said.
"We are trying in good faith, but not naivety, to reach a peace agreement. Any arrangement between us and the Palestinians will be based on two criteria: security and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state," Netanyahu added.
"Security, because no peace will last without a strong anchor of actual security on the ground, not on paper and not as a hazy international commitment," he said. "The second thing is the recognition that Israel is the national state of the Jewish people.
"If we are asked to recognize a Palestinian state, it is both natural and appropriate that the Palestinians recognize the state of the Israeli people as a Jewish state."
Netanyahu's statements came a day after he expressed concern that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would abandon the peace process, after the latter declared that he would not concede to Israel on a number of core issues and would not discuss recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
"Israel can call itself what it likes," Abbas told the East Jerusalem-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Araby.
The Palestinian leader also said he would refuse to continue negotiations should construction resume in West Bank settlements.
Netanyahu told a delegation of visiting U.S. congressmen during a meeting at his bureau that there were still many issues left to discuss. He also said that he "believes it possible, through such direct and contiguous negotiations, held without breaks or delays, to achieve a peace agreement within a year", spokesman Nir Hefez said following the meeting.
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