Israel remains committed to a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, despite worries among the Jewish state's European allies over its plans to build more settlements.
"We remain committed to a negotiated settlement between us and our Palestinian neighbors," Netanyahu said during a visit to Prague. "That solution is a two-state solution for two peoples, a peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognize the one and only Jewish state of Israel."
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Netanyahu's comments came ahead of a visit to Germany, where he was expected to face a dressing down from Chancellor Angela Merkel for the settlement plans that his government is pursuing following a vote in the United Nations last week granting the Palestinian Authority a nonmember state status.
The prime minister was quoted by Germany's Die Welt newspaper as saying that like many others in Israel, he is disappointed with Germany's decision to abstain from the UN General Assembly vote.
Netanyahu told the weekly that while Merkel thought the move would promote peace, it failed to do so.
Britain had abstained as well, while several other European countries voted for it. The Czech Republic was the only European country and one of nine that voted last week to reject the resolution upgrading the Palestinians' status to a nonmember observer state. It passed 138-9, with 41 abstentions.
The Czechs echoed the Israeli position that a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians should be reached through direct peace talks and not by unilateral moves.
The former Czechoslovakia was the fourth country to recognize Israel's independence five days after it was created in 1948.
'Thank you for your courage'
Netanyahu thanked Prime Minister Necas Petr for his country's support in Israel during the UN vote: "My real purpose in coming here is to say on behalf of the people of Israel to you and your government and your countrymen and women, to say thank you.
"Thank you for your country's opposition to the one-sided resolution at the United Nations; thank you for your friendship; thank you for your courage.
"I know that in voting against the one-sided resolution, the Czech Republic stood with the United States and Canada and a handful of other countries against the prevailing international current. But history has shown us time and again that what is right is not what is popular, and if there is a people in the world who can appreciate that, it's the people of your country," Netanyahu said.
"I know that your country has learned the lessons of history. So has my country, Israel. That is why Israel will not sacrifice its vital interests for the sake of obtaining the world's applause. Israel is committed to a genuine peace with our Palestinian neighbors – a genuine and durable peace. For peace to endure, it must be a peace that we can defend.
"No other peace can survive in the Middle East. We remain committed, as you said, to a negotiated settlement between us and our Palestinian neighbors. That solution is a two-state solution for two peoples, a peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State of Israel.
"Unfortunately, on Thursday, the Palestinians asked the world to give them a state without providing Israel with peace and security in return."
According to Netanyahu,the UN resolution "Completely ignored Israel's security needs. It didn't require the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state. It didn't even call on it to end the conflict with Israel. And this is why it was unacceptable to Israel, and that is why, too, it has been unacceptable to all responsible members of the international community.
"Our conflict with the Palestinians will be resolved only through direct negotiations that address the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians. It will not be resolved through one-sided resolutions of the UN that ignore Israel's vital needs and undermine the basic foundation for peace.
"Mr. Prime Minister, I'm proud to be here in Prague… Thank you for standing up for the truth; thank you for standing up for decency; and thank you for standing up for peace. Thank you."
AP, AFP and Reuters contributed to the report
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