netanyahu - Reuters - March 7 2011
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, left, during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem yesterday. Photo by Reuters
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Just days after announcing that he will present a new diplomatic initiative in the coming weeks to end the impasse in the peace process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a blistering verbal attack on the Palestinian Authority yesterday.

"We are prepared to sit down and negotiate peace," he said at a joint press conference with visiting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. "And the Palestinians have found a variety of excuses not to do so."

Netanyahu said the Palestinians were avoiding talks because they are hoping to persuade the international community to impose a solution to the conflict.

"Basically, they say, we don't have to negotiate, we can sit back, we can teach our children to idolize mass killers - they named a public square in Ramallah 10 minutes from here for a terrorist who murdered 400 innocent Israelis. They can do that and get away with it," Netanyahu said.

After listing what he said were five Israeli gestures aimed at advancing the peace process, including the 10-month freeze on settlement construction and the removal of numerous checkpoints and roadblocks, the prime minister added, "Unfortunately, everything that we did ... [was] met with no response by the Palestinian Authority. They just placed preconditions and terms, every way to avoid sitting down and discussing peace. They tried to go around the peace negotiations.

"I'll tell you why, because peace is hard ... You have to make concessions and you have to look people in the eye and tell them not everything that we'd hoped for would be possible," he continued. "But whereas Israel and I have been willing to move on this road, I've not seen the parallel [Palestinian] willingness to do the same."

Pinera, whose country recognized a Palestinian state a few months ago despite Netanyahu's personal request that he refrain from doing so, urged Israel to advance the peace process.

"I won't advise you on how to reach that peace process," he said yesterday. "The only advice I would like to give you is that if you can reach that peace process in a secure way, don't lose the opportunity."

Explaining his earlier decision to recognize a Palestinian state, Pinera said, "We have always thought that Israel has the right to live within secure borders, internationally recognized borders, in peace, in order to be able to develop itself and increase the quality of life of its people. But we also think that the Palestinian people have the right to have their own state, a free state, democratic state.

"That is why when we recognized the Palestinian state, we made it very clear that the best way to reach a strong, secure, durable peace is by direct talks between the two countries. Because, if they reach an agreement, then peace will be built over rock and not over sand," the Chilean leader explained.