Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Netanyahu's speech in Knesset on his desire for peace and the right to build in Jerusalem

(PM Netanyahu’s Address in honor of Brazilian President Lula da Silva).....The Government of Israel will continue to work to advance peace in our region, as we have done during the past year.

From day one of the establishment of our government, we have repeatedly called on the Palestinian Authority to enter the peace tent with us and begin negotiations. We have taken a number of steps, both in word and deed, to advance peace.

In my speech at Bar-Ilan University, I called upon the Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security, with the Palestinians living in a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.

We worked to advance peace by removing hundreds of roadblocks, checkpoints and dirt barriers to ease movement for the Palestinians. We facilitated Palestinian economic development and announced an unprecedented step: a moratorium on new construction in Judea and Samaria.

Regrettably, while we have taken all these steps, the Palestinian Authority has been placing preconditions to talks, waging a campaign to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and unfortunately is not attempting to curb scathing statements against Israel in their official media.

We all know one simple rule. The only way to achieve a peace agreement is to begin negotiating a peace agreement.

We have been and remain prepared to begin peace negotiations at any time, including right now. I am not saying this only in relation to the Palestinians but also in regard to our other neighbors – to the Syrians and others.

We desire peace.

I hope that the Palestinians will not once again place preconditions on talks – preconditions that have never been placed on any Israeli government and which would be unacceptable to any Israeli government.

No government of Israel for the last 40 years has agreed to place restrictions on building in Jerusalem – not Levi Eshkol, not Golda Meir, not Menachem Begin, not Shimon Peres, not Yitzhak Shamir, not Yitzhak Rabin, not Ariel Sharon, not Ehud Barak, not Ehud Olmert.

During that time, all these governments have built in the suburbs of Jerusalem – in Gilo, in Ramot, in Neve Yaakov, in Ramat Eshkol, in French Hill, in Pisgat Zeev, in Ramat Shlomo and elsewhere.

The establishment of these Jewish neighborhoods did not harm the Arabs of East Jerusalem in any way, shape or form and it was not at their expense.

Today, nearly half of Jerusalem’s Jewish population lives in these neighborhoods. None of these areas is far away; they are all a few minutes travel from here. They are within six kilometers of the Israeli Knesset.

Regardless of whatever political differences there may be in this house regarding the final status agreement and the ultimate borders of Israel, everyone agrees that all these neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in any final peace settlement.

We will continue to ensure that Jerusalem is an open city accessible to all religions; a city where Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims co-exist and enjoy freedom of religion and access to religious sites.