Monday, July 26, 2010

Netanyahu: Palestinians evading direct talks; Israel willing to begin direct peace talks 'as early as next week'

(ynet, Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, "There is an obvious Palestinian attempt to evade direct negotiations." At the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting Netanyahu said, "As far as we are concerned, we are ready to start direct negotiations as early as next week."

"There is an obvious Palestinian attempt to avoid this move. If anyone had any doubts about our willingness, these doubts have disappeared. The Palestinians are trying to get out of direct talks and are trying to garner the Arab League's support."

He added that the Palestinians "continue to try to weave the reasons why they do not want to enter direct negotiations: At first they said it was the borders and the freeze. But we prepared ourselves and are ready to begin direct talks next week. These are the same issues that were raised with the American president. He knows that we are ready and willing to enter negotiations."

The prime minister also suggested that the attempt to sabotage the move to direct talks was not only conducted by the Palestinians, saying there are "parties who are not enthusiastic both internationally and in Israel," perhaps hinting at leading opposition party Kadima.

"Unfortunately, not all those parties are found outside Israel, and I'm not referring to my colleagues from the right-wing parties of the coalition." He refused to elaborate, but did say that "if you invite me to the subcommittee, things will get very interesting."

Regarding future security arrangements, Netanyahu said that the "arrangements reached with the Palestinians must be such as to withstand any changes in the political and security Middle East map."

"The Palestinians must hold firm even if an eastern front develops, as was the case, for example, before the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime," Netanyahu said, reiterating that any security arrangements with the Palestinians must "stand the test of time."

"We won't compromise security,and that's why the U.S. administration has been notified of our security needs."

On the subject of the West Bank settlement construction freeze, the prime minister said he had not intention to extend the 10-month moratorium, saying "the slowdown was limited in time: It has not changed and that's how it will be."

Commenting on his meeting with US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu said it was "blunt" and that the two spokes "Openly, heart-to-heart."

"President Obama announced that we are reading and willing to start negotiations. These talks will certainly be difficult, but are preferable. Only direct negotiations will we be able to raise the issues of our security demands and interests."