Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
New York – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he would not freeze construction in settlements before negotiations with Palestinians began. In an interview with Ynet, he also commended Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly.
Is Abbas able to supply the goods you expect from negotiations, i.e, the recognition of Israel as the nation of the Jewish people?
"This is a question I asked him during our meeting yesterday. I told him there would be peace only if the same Palestinians asking us to recognize Palestine as the nation state of their people would recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
Roni Sofer and AP
Prime minister joins Israeli officials in praising US president's General Assembly speech and says Obama 'unequivocally supports Israel as state of Jewish people', while ignoring US leader's slamming of settlements
"The end of the conflict is the end of the conflict. Abu Mazen's test will be if he wants to be Arafat or Sadat."
There has been much talk of chilled relations between yourself and US President Obama during recent months. Do you feel that you became closer during the recent meeting?
"I think it was a very good meeting. President Obama also described it as such to the UN. In recent months there has been a warming of ties and almost daily contact between Israel and the US."
How can you describe the meeting as an achievement when Obama has called for a curbing of settlement activity?
"We're not celebrating but I am certainly happy. I am happy the president has removed the Palestinian demand for the setting of preconditions. There is a difference of opinion between Israel and the US on the issue of settlements, and this is nothing new, it has existed for 40 years. The US president has stressed that this is not something that should prevent negotiations, because in any case the issue will be discussed within the negotiations."
Netanyahu also responded to Obama's referral to the "occupation that began in 1967" and said, "Obama did not say to return to the 1967 borders. He was referring to a clause that exists in the Road Map. Previous governments have not agreed to go back to the 1967 borders and certainly this one won't."
And what about the differences of opinion with the Palestinians? The issue of the settlements has remained unchanged as well as those of the borders, the refugees, and Jerusalem.
"I am sure the Palestinians will bring up their stance and we will bring up ours. I said this at the triple meeting with Abu Mazen. There may be very difficult parts to these negotiations, but they are very important to get into."
Regarding the Iranian issue, is the Obama administration committed to the safety of Israel in light of Iran's nuclear program?
"I think Obama is aware and has repeated several times his commitment to the safety of Israel. The fact that he did so in Cairo, before the entire Arab world, is an indication of this commitment."
Will your speech at the UN deal with the Iranian issue, and what will you say to the world?
"I will not go into the details of the speech, but I will say that I will be making it in English because in Hebrew we are already decided amongst ourselves. During the speech I want to talk from our hearts and souls to the nations of the world. I will speak in English because I want to be heard and understood without translation; I want things to be clear."