Netanyahu: Resuming Peace Talks With Palestinians Is a Strategic Interest for Israel

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed on Saturday the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that they are "an essential strategic interest for Israel." Netanyahu said that renewing negotiations is not only important for ending the conflict with the Palestinians, but also significant in light of the Iranian threat and the civil war raging in Syria.

Meanwhile, Israel's political-security cabinet convened on Saturday evening to hear updates on agreement reached to resume negotiation.

"I have in mind a number of objectives," Netanyahu said, "preventing the creation of a bi-national state between the Jordan River and the sea, which will endanger the future of the Jewish State, and preventing the creation of another Iranian-backed terrorist state within Israel's borders, which could no less endanger us."

Netanyahu thanked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his efforts in bringing about the resumption of negotiations, and expressed hope that the talks will be held in a serious and responsible manner. "I will insist on Israel's security demands and on its essential interests," he said.  

Habayit Hayehudi leader and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement on Saturday that "insisting on our principles has paid off," adding that the resumption of peace talks was achieved without preconditions. "[There is] no freeze, and of course no detached demand to conduct [negotiations] on the basis of the 1967 lines." On Thursday, Bennett said that his party would not sit in a government that negotiates with the Palestinians based on 1967 borders.

"When negotiations begin," Bennett's statement added, "we will insist that normal life continues and construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria continues. History has taught us that building brings life, and evacuation of settlements brings terror." Moreover, he said, "in light of events over the past few days we will not agree to have the Europeans take part in the negotiations – they [cannot assume] the stance of a fair mediator."

Earlier on Saturday, Justice Minister and  the Minister Responsible for the Negotiations with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, commented on the agreement to renew the peace negotiations with the Palestinians in an interview on Channel 2's Meet the Press.

Livni said that she was aware of the agreement's details and that they were "the right thing" for Israel, for the government and for the right-wing parties in the coalition.

"All issues are on the table," Livni said. "But once we are in the discussion room we will have to act responsibly and guard the interests of the State of Israel. I did so in the past. It will be complicated and tricky but it is a very important process."

Livni treaded carefully on the issue of Minister Bennett's threat to leave the government if negotiations begin on the basis of the 1967 borders. "As for yesterday's agreements," she said, "there is no reason for a Zionist party to say no."

She stressed that it was Netanyahu and not her that approved the agreement. "This government needs these negotiations. It has the ability to negotiate; at least I hope so, if all the parties that entered the government will keep their word," Livni said, hinting at Bennett's threat.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a second meeting on his fifth Mideast trip in Jerusalem on June 28, 2013.Credit: AFP