Ahead of Kerry's Visit |

Netanyahu Urges Palestinians to Negotiate Until Conflict Is Resolved

The prime minister says Israel's goal is not just to restart peace talks, but to keep them going until significant progress is made, while Economy Minister Naftali Bennett says the Israeli public does not expect its elected leaders to deal with peace talks.

Barak Ravid
Haaretz
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Barak Ravid
Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said he hopes the Palestinians are prepared to return to the negotiating table for direct talks with Israel without preconditions.

Speaking at the start of his meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that renewing peace talks is not enough; the negotiations must last long enough to bear fruit, he said.

Netanyahu went on to say that the goal is not simply to restart peace negotiations just so that Israel can check that off its to-do list, so to speak, but to truly attempt to resolve the issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and reach an agreement that would resolve the core issues. Such a process will take time, determination and discipline, Netanyahu said, adding that he hopes the Palestinians are prepared for such a process.

The prime minister made his remarks a short time after Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said that the Israeli public does not expect its elected leaders to deal with peace talks with the Palestinians. He reiterated that he would not "veto" renewed negotiations but told Army Radio, "The public elected us to invest in economic and social issues, to lower the cost of living, and not in cocktails in Oslo."

Bennett said his outlook regarding the peace process is "no secret," adding that he "no longer believes in withdrawals."

"I think the rockets on southern Israel prove that withdrawals only lead to more violence," he said. "I don’t believe anything will come of [negotiations]. The public sometimes forgets – but an overwhelming majority of the Palestinian public voted for Hamas."

At the same time, Bennett repeated what he told the Washington Post recently, saying that he would not rule out negotiations with the Palestinians. "I don’t see a problem with negotiating and there's no need to put spokes in the wheels of such a process. I think it’s time that we advance to a more serious place," Bennett said.

"There are many serious proposals" on the table. But, he said, peace will not happen tomorrow. "I don’t understand the logic of working to transfer Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] to our greatest enemy," Bennett said.

Meanwhile, on the Palestinian side, senior negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that the Palestinians have no preconditions for talks. "All that we want from the prime minister of the state of Israel: Sir, we want to negotiate with you. What is the agenda of the negotiations? Is asking for the agenda of the negotiations a pre-condition?," he asked on Army Radio.

"If you say no to the '67 border, no to Jerusalem, no to refugees, no to the military, what is there to negotiate with you about?"

However, Erekat said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is still "exerting every possible effort to succeed," adding that it's premature to talks about the failure to restart negotiations.

"We are focused on one item on our agenda: Kerry's success, " Erekat said.
A senior source in Jerusalem on Monday expressed doubts about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ intentions to renew the dialogue with Israel. “The question is not whether the Palestinians will resume negotiations, but rather whether these will be serious, without looking for the first excuse to bolt from the table," said the source.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, gestures while meeting with Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Thursday, May 23, 2013.Credit: AP

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