Israel is ready to negotiate with the Palestinians immediately and has given the Palestinians a position paper earlier this month containing 21 points on which there is domestic political consensus, as a prelude to potential talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told MKs Monday.
The document was given to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at interim Israeli-Palestinian talks in Amman earlier this month, Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
He said he is ready to begin negotiations at any time but the Palestinians have refused to negotiate without preconditions.
"I'm ready to get into my car at any time and go to Ramallah, even if it's more than a small headache for my security guards, but Abu Mazen isn't ready," said Netanyahu, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
He said Israel agreed to an unprecedented 10-month settlement construction freeze but the Palestinians demanded that the building halt be extended further.
The Palestinians are expected to abandon even a pretense at negotiations after January 26, but Netanyahu called for talks until at least April. Last fall the Mideast Quartet called on Israel and the PA to submit proposals on the issues of security and borders within three months, and the deadline has been widely interpreted as January 26.
"Erekat wants to abandon the talks on January 26, but the Quartet set 90 days for the talks," Netanyahu said. "We count them from the first meeting that took place, so that's until April 3."
Netanyahu added that "Saeb Erekat's position paper hasn't changed."
Speaking in London, Erekat denounced Netanyahu's comments as a "baseless attack."
Referring to efforts at reconciliation between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Netanyahu said the move should require demilitarization of Gaza, which is under Hamas control, asserting that security for Israel must come before peace.
Contrary to comments Netanyahu made over the weekend to an Australian newspaper that the combination of sanctions and the threat of military action against Iran have begun to elicit signs of stress on Iranian nuclear policy, Monday the prime minister said current sanctions are not effective and must include measures against Iran's central bank and oil industry.
Also Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Abbas, who is visiting Britain, that the United Kingdom would do everything in its power to promote Jordanian-backed efforts to restart the peace process, for which he said time was running out.
"We think that time, in some ways, is running out for the two-state solution unless we can push forwards now because otherwise the facts on the ground will make it more and more difficult, which is why the settlement issue remains so important," said Cameron.
Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg condemned Israeli settlements Monday as "deliberate vandalism" of efforts to establish a Palestinian state, some of Britain's strongest comments yet on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Israel criticized Clegg's remarks as "gratuitous bashing."
"It would be much better to contribute to peace by encouraging the fragile revival of Israeli-Palestinian talks rather than engaging in gratuitous bashing," the Press Association news agency quoted Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor as saying.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, confirmed that Abbas would have his first-ever meeting with the head of the Anglican Church in London Tuesday. A Palestinian spokeswoman said Williams was set to visit the Palestinian territories in the "next couple of months."
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