Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Netanyahu: Mutual recognition and defensible borders, is the meat and potatoes of peace

NBC News' Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, about his relationship with President Obama and the state of peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The below excerpt aired on Tuesday's "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams", with the interview airing in full on Wendesday's 'Andrea Mitchell Reports' on MSNBC.

ANDREA MITCHELL: President Obama has said to you that they -- you cannot afford any more delay, that with all of the upheavals, the changes in the Arab world, that Israel is at risk of being isolated, of being left behind. What do you say to the President?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I think the President shares with me, and I share with him, the desire to move the peace process forward. And I said in Congress that there's one way to move this thing forward. President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has to do what I did two years ago.

Two years ago, I spoke to my people and I said: "I will accept a Palestinian state." I think the President -- President Abbas has to say these same six words to his people: "I will accept the Jewish state." You know what, I'll give him a break, five words: "I accept the Jewish state." Because I think if he says that, then that will move the process forward. People will say, okay, we have a real peace partner, and for real peace, we're willing to move and move quickly.

ANDREA MITCHELL: The wider world is in upheaval. Isn't Israel at risk of being isolated, of the UN taking action in September to declare a Palestinian state?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The world is changing. We want to make sure that when we make peace, we not only have somebody who will recognize us, but that we know that we have a secure border to defend ourselves -- not only to defend the peace, but to defend ourselves if peace unravels. And I think that we are seeing what is happening in Syria, we're seeing what is happening in other places, in Egypt. We don't even know whether our peace partners will be there tomorrow. I mean, really tomorrow, not in an abstract notion. So when we say we want mutual recognition and defensible borders for Israel, that's really the meat and potatoes of peace.

ANDREA MITCHELL: There was a moment in the Oval Office on Friday -- you and the President of the United States -- and some of your early supporters, friends of Israel, said that you were lecturing him, that it went too far.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I wasn't lecturing anyone. I was speaking about the basic things that Israel requires to have peace and security and survival. I'm the leader of an old nation. The President said a great nation, but he's the leader of a great nation, the American people. And I have the greatest respect for America, and for the office of the Presidency.