The Palestinians should recognize Israel
as the Jewish state and make peace with it, before seeking a state of their own, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
told the UN General Assembly Friday.
“Israel has extended its hand in peace from the moment it was established,” offering Israel’s response to a fiery anti-Israel speech
delivered by the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
Netanyahu said that he extended his hand to the Arab nations of the Middle East “on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people,” and mostly to the Palestinian people, “with whom we seek a just and lasting peace.”
|Watch Netanyahu's UN address (Video: Reuters)|
“I came here to speak the truth. The truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that Israel wants peace with the Palestinians, but they want a state without peace, and the truth is you shouldn’t let that happen,” he said. “The Palestinian should first make peace with Israel and then get their state. After peace is signed, Israel won’t be the last country to accept a Palestinian state – we will be the first.”
"I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner in peace. I work hard to advance that peace," Netanyahu added. "President Abbas, why don’t you join me, we have to stop negotiating about the negotiations. Let’s get on with it. We have to negotiate peace.
"If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us? Let’s listen to one another. Let’s talk ‘dugri’ (straight forward) and with God’s help we’ll find the common ground of peace. There’s an old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand. The same is true with peace. I cannot make peace alone. I cannot make peace without you. President Abbas, I extend my hand in peace; I hope you grasp that hand. We are both the sons of Abraham. Our destiny is intertwined," Netanyahu said.
Declaring that Israel is a Jewish state, Netanyahu said: “We don’t want the Palestinians to change the Jewish character of the state. We want them to give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians.“
The prime minister added that settlements were not the main obstacle to peace, saying: “The core of the conflict is not the settlements, the settlements are a result of the conflict. The core of the conflict is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border.”
“Recognize the Jewish state and make peace with us,” he said, referring to Palestinian President Abbas.
'Israel wants peace with Palestinians.' Netanyahu in UN (Photo: AFP)
Speaking about the terrorism threat faced by Israel, the PM said: “Thousands of missiles have already rained down on our cities. So you might understand why Israelis rightfully ask what’s preventing it from happening again.”
“Would any of you bring danger so close to your cities, to your families? Would you act so recklessly with the life of your families?” he said.
Turning his attention to Hamas, Netanyahu said: "Hamas has been violating international law by holding our soldier Gilad Shalit for five years. Gilad Shalit is the son of every Israeli family. Every nation represented here should demand his immediate release. If you want to pass a resolution about the Middle East today – that’s the resolution you should pass."
“Since 9/11, militant Islam has slaughtered countless innocents. The most dangerous threat is that these fanatics arm themselves with nuclear weapons and this is precisely what Iran is trying to do. Can you imagine that man armed with nuclear weapons?” Netanyahu added, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Earlier, Abbas asked the United Nations on Friday to recognize a state for his people, accusing Israel of engaging in ethnic cleansing in his United Nations speech.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Abbas accused Israel of employing an “ethnic cleansing policy” in Jerusalem.
“Israel issues building permits to settlers so they can build in occupied Jerusalem, while it keeps confiscating lands in eastern Jerusalem and driving away Palestinians from their ancestral lands,” he said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly
Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman,
walked out during Abbas’ address. He later told Ynet the Palestinian leader delivered “speech of incitement” that included “harsh threats.” Prime Minister Netanyahu was not present during Abbas’ speech to begin with.
Yitzhak Benhorin and Attila Somfalvi are Ynet's correspondents in New York