Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on Monday reaffirmed his commitment to the two-state solution ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit
Addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel, Netanyahu said he still stands by his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech where he backed the concept of two states for two peoples.
"I believe that a framework to peace (with the Palestinians) is what I outlined in my speech in Bar-Ilan University – two states for two peoples: A demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state."
|Netanyahu discusses Iran, peace process (Video: Avi Peretz)|
He nevertheless stressed that there should be no pre-conditions to negotiations and called for a resumption of talks.
"To reach this solution means to negotiate in good faith. That means you don't place preconditions. For the past four years the Palestinians regrettably place preconditions, time after time. My hope is that they leave them aside and get to the negotiating table," he said.
Netanyahu addresses Jewish leaders (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Addressing the Iranian nuclear threat
he said that while Tehran has yet to reach the red line presented at his UN speech, it is moving closer to it.
"I drew a line at the UN, they haven't crossed that line but what they're doing is to shorten the time that it will take them to cross that line. And the way there is by putting in new faster centrifuges that cut the time by one third. This has to be stopped. For the interest of peace and security, for the interest of the entire world."
Netanyahu said that sanctions on Iran must be upgraded and failing that to exercise "a military threat " explaining that "nothing else will do the job."
PM expressed hope Palestinians will drop preconditions (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Commenting on the Syrian civil war, the prime minister said that Damascus possesses "the world's most developed weapons that can change the balance of power in the Middle East. Israel will not sit idly by and let those weapons fall into the hands of terrorists," he pledged.
Obama is scheduled to visit Israel on March 20. The White House said that the visit will not be "focused on specific Middle East peace process proposals."
On Sunday, Netanyahu said that the visit will focus on Iran's nuclear program, the volatile situation in Syria and its effects on regional security and attempts to further the peace process with the Palestinians.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, said that it's important to lower expectations. Don't expect Obama to leave Israel with a new peace plan, he said.
Also Monday, the American Jewish leaders met with President Shimon Peres who said that Israel must maintain the deep friendship with the US. He noted that Israel greatly looks forward to Obama's visit. "He's a genuine leader and a very serious person," Peres said.
Washington is also taking steps in preparation for Obama's visit in Israel and the West Bank. Congress is working on unfreezing $700 million for the Palestinian Authority. The funds were frozen after the PA unilaterally took its bid for statehood to the United Nations. The US now fears that without the aid the PA might collapse.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that it was important for the PA to remain effective adding that Secretary of State John Kerry believes the funds must be released without delay. US officials are worried that the Palestinian security forces, which the US helped establish, would collapse.
The State Department is working to release $495.7 million in assistance that was notified in April 2012 and $200 million in direct budget support that was notified last week. "Our view remains that our assistance to the Palestinian people is an essential part of the US commitment to a negotiated two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, promoting a comprehensive peace in the Middle East," Nuland said in a press briefing.
"It is in the interest not only of the Palestinians, but of Israel and the United States as well, to ensure these efforts continue as they help to build a more democratic, stable and secure region."
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report
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