Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that Israelis were ready to make concessions for peace, but will not be "suckers" in peace negotiations.
"We have proved time and again that we are willing to make concessions for peace, but we won't delude ourselves - we are not willing to be suckers," Netanyahu told members of his Likud Party in Tel Aviv.
The prime minister's speech to Likud activists came as he was reportedly set to announce a freeze on construction in West Bank settlements - a move hotly opposed by some in his party. He met with Likud ministers over the weekend in an attempt to persuade them to support the freeze.
During the speech, held ahead of the upcoming Jewish holidays, Netanyahu addressed West Bank settlers directly, calling them "loyal and good citizens."
"You deserve to live normal lives," he said. "We will do two things at the same time: Advance the peace process and enable you to live normal lives."
Earlier yesterday the West Bank settlers' leaders were reportedly planning a sit-down strike outside Netanyahu's home to protest the construction freeze, anticipated to take effect before his meeting with United States President Barack Obama at the end of the month.
The prime minister also discussed the issue of Jerusalem, in whose eastern neighborhoods the Palestinians want to form the capital of a state they hope to create in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu reiterated that "united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and will remain so forever... The Israeli people is willing to do a lot for peace, but will not give up on the clear and unequivocal recognition of the Jewish people's right to the State of Israel."
President Shimon Peres said yesterday that Netanyahu is willing to suspend construction in the West Bank settlements and start immediate negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Peres is trying to persuade opposition leader Tzipi Livni and other members of her Kadima Party to join Netanyahu's coalition so it can maintain a majority in the Knesset if the prime minister accept Obama's peace plan, which may cause other coalition parties to defect. So far Livni has refused.
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