Israeli Leader Offers ‘Everything on the Table’ for Palestinian Talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French Premier Manuel Valls. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French Premier Manuel Valls. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a clear message for those who think that international intervention is needed for Middle East peace because Israel isn’t ready to make tough decisions. If there are direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Netanyahu said, “Every difficult issue will be on the table: mutual recognition, incitement, borders, refugees and yes, settlements—everything.”

The Israeli leader’s comments had a direct audience: the Prime Minister of France, which is pushing an international peace effort that will spur the sides to make an agreement. Netanyahu told Manuel Valls, in comments published by his office, that a French peace initiative is still possible, but it must come through direct talks.

“The Palestinian leadership doesn’t see the French initiative as an inducement to compromise, but rather as a way to avoid it,” warned Netanyahu. “In fact, the Palestinian Prime Minister, [Rami] Hamdallah, let slip the other day his hope for an imposed timetable, rather than a negotiated peace.”

Netanyahu said that peace cannot be achieved through conferences “UN-style” or via “international diktats or committees from countries around the world who are sitting and seeking to decide our fate and our security when they have no direct stake in it.”

The reason why direct talks are necessary, said Netanyahu, is that it will force the Palestinians to make a choice: true peace with two states for two peoples, or continuing the conflict.

“The Palestinian leadership must face a stark choice and this choice is simple: recognize the Jewish state or continue educating your people that one day Israel will be gone. It will create a Palestinian state not to live side-by-side next to Israel, but to eliminate Israel,” said Netanyahu. “So we want two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. And I urge you not to let the Palestinian leadership shirk this difficult choice.”

The Israeli leader again called for direct talks in the immediate future with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and even offered to fly this week to Paris to hold the talks there.

“I am more than willing; I am eager,” said Netanyahu. “I was injured in battle; I lost a brother; I lost many friends in battle. Israel wants nothing more than peace. And I hope you encourage President Abbas to accept this French initiative: direct negotiations without preconditions, between the Israeli prime minister [and] the Palestinian president in Paris.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 23, 2016)

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