Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that the Palestinians must first make peace with Israel, and only after get their state, during his address to the UN General Assembly in New York.
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"Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we're not prepared to have another Gaza there," Netanyahu stressed. "The Palestinians must first make peace with Israel, and only then get their state."
He spoke Friday shortly after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, defying U.S. and Israeli opposition, asked the United Nations to accept them as a member state, sidestepping nearly two decades of failed negotiations.
Netanyahu responded by saying Israel was renewing its hand of peace to countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, "but most especially, I extend my hand to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just and lasting peace."
Netanyahu added that if there was such a peace, "Israel will not be the last state to welcome a Palestinian state into the United Nations. We will be the first."
It was also time for the Palestinians to acknowledge that "Israel is the Jewish state," he told the assembly.
He also made an appeal to Abbas for direct peace talks with the Palestinians to begin without delay in New York.
"Let's meet here today in the United Nations," Netanyahu said.
Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed a year ago. The Palestinians pulled out after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Israel has rejected the Palestinian bid, saying that peace can only be achieved through negotiations, not a unilateral declaration of statehood.
U.S. President Barack Obama, echoed these sentiments in a meeting with Abbas on Wednesday, saying that UN action would not achieve a Palestinian state and the United States would veto any Security Council move to recognize Palestinian statehood, the White House said.