PM: Achieving peace possible but difficult
Netanyahu addresses launching of direct talks between Israel, Palestinian in Washington next week. 'I know there is a lot of doubt after 17 years, since the start of the Oslo process. We need a real partner to reach out from the Palestinian side,' he says at start of cabinet meeting
"To all the skeptics I say that achieving peace is possible, but difficult," the prime minister said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "I welcome the invitation issued by the United States to launch direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians without preconditions."
Netanyahu added," I have been calling for such talks since the government's establishment, a year and a half ago. I know there is a lot of doubt after 17 years, since the start of the Oslo process, and I can understand why it exists. We wish to calm the skeptics down, but in order to do so we need a real partner to reach out from the Palestinian side."
The prime minister went on to say that in order for the talks to bear fruit, concessions will be required on a variety of issues.
"Negotiations will require both sides to take moves. If there is such a partner, we could reach peace which will be based on three main levels: The first, real security arrangements in the State of Israel; the second, recognizing Israel as the Jewish people's state, including the right of return issue and the solution for the Palestinian refugees, which will be found in the future Palestinian state; and the third level, the establishment of the Palestinian state requires that it be demilitarized and end the conflict, so that it does not continue in any other way."
Netanyahu concluded by saying that "an agreement means ending the conflict. If these three layers exist, peace can be achieved."
Construction freeze to continue?
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that Netanyahu had stated before that the resumption of the talks would not lead to the continuation of the settlement construction freeze beyond the set date.
"The prime minister responded to my question, during a Likud ministers' discussion before the cabinet meeting, that as far as he is concerned there is no change in the government decision on ending the building freeze in Judea and Samaria on September 26."
As for the nature of tha talks, Shalom added that "the United States is the main player in the international Quartet and is committed to the statements of this forum. The test will be on September 26, and then we'll be able to know if their declaration on the settlement freeze is what counts."
Even before the discussion, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) expressed his pessimism as to the future of the talks. "I'll say it ironically, I am very, very unoptimistic," he said. Steinitz's associates explained that his feelings stemmed from recent statements made by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who threatened to halt the talks if the settlement freeze won’t be extended.
Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) said that "the worst thing would be false talks. If the prime minister is guided by a policy of 'it will be all right,' he shouldn't go to the US in the first place."
Fellow Labor minister, Isaac Herzog, said that "this is a very significant development. This is an opportunity for the parties' leaders to face each other and look each other in the eye in order to decide whether they plan to strike a goal for peace."
Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) stated that "continuing the (settlement construction freeze) is not on the agenda. The Palestinians proved in the past that when we reach out for peace, they rudely reject our gesture, so it's hard to be optimistic."
Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) expressed his hope that "the negotiations will eventually lead to significant agreements, although it's still unclear what understandings the talks are based on. I only know the basic guidelines of the government and that the freeze ends on September 26, but the other side must also change its stand."
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