Monday, January 3, 2011

Netanyahu tells FADC: Israel has one YES for Peace, while the PA say three NO's

Netanyahu, who did not spell out what steps Israel would take told Knesset members at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, that Israel has an “arsenal of possible responses” it can deploy in response to a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, but preferrs “not going” down that unilateral path “because it is a negative direction.”

The prime minister said he had spoken recently with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in an effort to prevent Santiago from recognizing a Palestinian state – something a number of Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador, have done in recent weeks. Uruguay announced that it would recognize Palestinian statehood in 2011.

According to the prime minister, such recognition distances negotiations and makes peace more unlikely, because it strengthens the Palestinians’ sense that they can get what they want without negotiations.

Netanyahu bewailed what he said had become the Palestinian “three no’s”: No to recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, no to dropping their demand for a Palestinian refugee “right of return,” and no to agreed-upon security arrangements on the ground. The prime minister was making a reference to the Arab League’s Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967, and its “Three No’s”: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

Netanyahu, who informed the MKs that White House senior adviser Dennis Ross was due back later this week, said the Palestinians had shown no willingness to compromise on either substantive or procedural issues. They have shown “no movement,” he said.

“No coalition agreement will prevent reaching an agreement with the Palestinians,” promised Netanyahu. “On the first day of this government, I asked [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas to hold direct negotiations and received no response.”

“Israel is continuing to advance the peace process, but the Palestinians have not moved one millimeter.

“We crossed our Rubicon; the question is, will the Palestinians? Are they ready to stand before their public and advance peace? They went into talks around the end of the building moratorium, but the only topic that they discussed was the continuation of the freeze.”

“We had talks with the Americans about what we wanted in return. The truth is that we were ready to do it again, contrary to reports that Israel refused to extend it. Ultimately it was the Americans who backed down from the talks - and rightly so, I think, because in the past all the conversations with the Palestinians were about continuing the freeze and not about the key subjects,” he said.

Answering a question from MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) regarding progress on the planned Palestinian city of Rawabi, outside of Ramallah, the prime minister said, “I think that it is a positive step. The Palestinians are building constantly, but this time it is a visible project that all the world can observe. It is a city that will be part of the future Palestinian state, and we are looking into easing restrictions on transit surrounding the city.”