Netanyahu: For Sake of Peace, Israel Must Aid Palestinian Economy

Opposition leader: PA development key to peace talks, will help Israel withstand economic crisis.

Likud Chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for Israel to assist in the expansion of the Palestinian economy, saying it would also benefit Israel and would be a crucial factor in advancing peace talks.

Speaking before a Knesset committee meeting Wednesday, Netanyahu said "rapid [economic] development is key, and not only for the sake of negotiations with the Palestinians, but also so that Israel will be able to get out of the economic crisis."

Netanyahu added that Israel intends "to advance peace talks with the Palestinians, in order to gain a stable, safe, and prosperous peace."

The Likud leader also vowed that Israel will "continue diplomatic negotiations and we will advance the 'economic peace' whose goal is to bring the rapid development of the Palestinian economy and to prepare public opinion for a real agreement."

"The economic peace is not an alternative for peace talks but will help guide a winning process. We have seen this in the world, quickened economic development has helped form the conditions for peace and the resolution of conflict," Netanyahu said, before adding that Israel "must bring peace - this is our goal. We will reach this goal."

Netanyahu's statements echo those made by a spokesperson at his office on Tuesday, who said the Likud leader thinks talks with the Palestinians should focus on developing their economy, with political matters to be discussed only after economic conditions on the ground improve.

Netanyahu's office also said he will halt peace talks with the Palestinians in their current form if he wins a national election next February, and will step up efforts to develop the Palestinian economy instead.