Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserted on Thursday evening that the problem at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the issue that he believes hinders peace, is the Palestinians' inability to accept Israel's right to exist.
Speaking at the closing panel of the President's Conference in Jerusalem, the prime minister repeated calls to the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.
"The only way to end the negotiations for peace is to begin them," Netanyahu said, "We're ready to negotiate peace without preconditions now, we're only 15 minutes away from Ramallah, there's no reason on earth why we couldn't negotiate."
"This conflict predates 1967 by almost half a century, it predates the settlements," he said, explaining what he believes is the underlining problem. "Why did this conflict rage from 1920 with the first Palestinian Arab attacks on the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa, what was that all about?"
Answering his own question, Netanyahu said those attacks resulted from "an opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries" even before the formation of the state. Following the 1948 Declaration of Independence "there was an attempt to put out the life of the Jewish state in the War of Independence and in wars that followed."
The prime minister continued his history lesson, stating that even after Israel's unilateral evacuation of Gaza in 2005, rockets continued to rain down on Israel. "Why are they doing this? They say to vacate Palestine. Do they mean Beersheba? Ashdod? Ashkelon? Jaffa?" he asked.
"Ultimately, it's the willingness of the Palestinians to accept the right of the Jewish people to live in their ancient homeland that will determine the success of the peace talks," Netanyahu said, concluding that Israel reaching peace with all of its neighbors is the tomorrow he wishes for.
Rohani's 'talk and enrich' doctrine
The prime minister also addressed another security threat Israel is facing, the Iranian nuclear threat. He cautioned against newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rohani, saying Rohani will continue implementing the old doctrine of "talk and enrich."
Netanyahu said that despite hope at the election of the moderate Rohani, and the will of the Iranian people for peace, the Iranian leadership will continue stalling for time while enriching uranium in pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
"The right that Iran stresses it must have a guarantee on is to develop nuclear weapons - this is what this regime is about," he said.
"We are seeing a change in style but not in substance," he warned. "The president-elect is the author of a doctrine that I call 'talk and enrich.' He takes great pride in the fact that when he was Iran's nuclear negotiator, that's exactly what he did and he criticized the past president for not using this tactic."
"There is a critical test - not what [the Iranians] say, but what they do. They have to abide by international demands; stop all enrichment, remove nuclear materials that have already been enriched and shut down the illicit nuclear facilities," the prime minister added, concluding that "we cannot allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons."
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