WASHINGTON - Israel
is prepared to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians without any delay and without any preconditions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said Monday night, speaking from Israel via satellite to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.
The prime minister said he believed that "with the help of (US President Barack) Obama and (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas,
we can defy the skeptics, we can surprise the world."
Addressing the 6,000 AIPAC conference participants from the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Netanyahu delivered a short address with two key messages: Iran
must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, and Israel seeks peace with the Palestinians.
The Israeli leader made no reference to the term "Palestinian state", clarified that peace will not come without security, and reiterated that the Palestinians would have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu noted in his speech to the pro-Israel lobby that three Israeli prime ministers had failed to reach a final peace accord, but added decisively that he believed "it's possible to achieve (peace)."
He went on to present a new approach: "The fresh approach that I suggest is pursuing a triple track toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians: a political track, a security track and economic track.
"The political track is that we’re prepared to resume peace negotiations without any delay and without any preconditions, the sooner the better."
The security track, he said, is continuing talks involving US General Keith Dayton in cooperation with the Jordanians and the Palestinian Authority, in order to bolster Palestinian security forces.
"The economic track means we are prepared to work together to remove as many obstacles as we can to the advancement of the ... Palestinian economy,’ he said, stating that "we want to work with the Palestinian Authority on this track not as a substitute for negotiations but as a booster."
Several hours earlier, Netanyahu addressed what was required from the Palestinian side in a speech at the Knesset
in honor of Herzl Day. "The recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is a necessary basis for true peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors," he said.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday night that President Obama plans to advance the peace process. "This is of the utmost priority for the president. It is something that he believes will only be advanced and moved forward by a sustained effort by this administration, in conjunction with the Palestinians and the Israelis, to make progress," he noted.
Gibbs said during the briefing that "this president spent time the very first day he worked in the Oval Office on Middle East peace and I think this is the beginning of many steps. Obviously Mr. Netanyahu will visit the White House later in the month, as others have and others will over the course of the next few weeks as we start this long process."
Reuters and AFP contributed to this report