PM: Peace plan possible by end of '11
LAST UPDATED: 07/09/2010 00:31
Netanyahu: We need Palestinian partnership; Obama woos on channel 2
Netanyahu and Obama meet at the White House Photo: Associated Press
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
told the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday that all
core issues could be discussed in direct negotiations, and that if it
were up to him, a peace deal with the Palestinians could be signed by
the end of 2011.In addition, he responded to charges of Israeli
impropriety in the May
31 Gaza flotilla incident.
“If it’s up to me, we’ll have an agreement,”
Talks must begin right away
strengthened by Netanyahu-Obama meeting
identifies with Jewish struggle
he stressed that an accord would require a willing and able partner in
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. While he expressed a
reluctance to criticize Abbas, Netanyahu said, “I tend to confound the
critics and the skeptics, but I need a partner. You can’t go out on a
trapeze, hold out your hand and not have a partner on the other side.”
implied he would not extend the moratorium on settlements, due to
expire on September 26, saying Israel had already shown its good faith,
and decried the position that a moratorium extension should be a
precondition for peace talks.
“Nobody’s going to deliver an
agreement or a settlement from the outset,” the prime minister said. “If
they’re waiting for that, I think that’s a big mistake. We’re prepared
to talk about everything.”
The prime minister was winding up his
trip to the US before flying back to Israel on Thursday evening.
US President Barack Obama took his efforts to improve his relations
with Israel out of the confines of the Oval Office and into Israel’s
living rooms on Thursday, giving an interview to Channel 2 during which
he articulated an understanding of the country’s fears and strong
support for its security.
“Israeli people are going to have to
overcome legitimate skepticism and more than legitimate fears in order
to get a change that I think will secure Israel for another 60 years,”
Obama said during the interview taped on Wednesday night and aired two
days after he warmly welcomed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the
Obama insists previous Netanyahu meeting was 'terrific'
Obama’s reception of Netanyahu was markedly
different from their last meeting, which was held without photographers
present or a joint statement.
But during his interview, Obama
said that the earlier meeting had been badly misrepresented.
last time the prime minister came here, we had a terrific meeting,” he
said, adding that reports that he had somehow snubbed Netanyahu were
patently false, and that the lack of a photo-opportunity and statement
“fed this impression that there were more strains then there were.
don’t want to be disingenuous, there have been differences,” Obama
said. “Our view on settlements, for example, is consistent with all
previous US administrations.”
He said that the positions his
administration had voiced on the settlements had been done “not in the
spirit of trying to undermine Israel’s security, but to strengthen it.
Because we believe strongly that if we can achieve calm on the ground,
that will help in the negotiations that lead to peace.”
whether he had urged Netanyahu to extend the 10-month settlement
moratorium, Obama echoed what he said on Tuesday with Netanyahu at his
side: that he would like to see the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks
begin before then.
Trust must be built so both sides will not be 'paranoid'
One result of the direct talks, he said, would
be to build trust between the sides so they would not be “so jumpy or
paranoid about every single move being made, whether it is being related
to Jerusalem, or any other issues that have to be dealt with.”
interview came just a week after Abbas also appealed directly to the
Israeli public, giving a rare interview to the Hebrew press in which he
tried to convince the public of his sincerity about peace.
on Thursday gave a number of interviews, including to CNN, ABC and CBS.
In these interviews, he tried to convince the American public of the
need for direct talks with the PA now, and he also, like Obama,
downplayed reports of a crisis over the last year in his ties with the
Obama said in his interview that not only was
Netanyahu a “smart and savvy politician,” but the fact that “he is not
perceived as a dove can in some ways be helpful.”
Obama said that
just as former US president Richard Nixon had been uniquely positioned
to make his groundbreaking trip to China because of his anti-communist
credentials, so, too, Netanyahu may be positioned to help shepherd in a
peace accord, because “any successful peace will have to include the
hawks and doves on both sides.”
The president said Netanyahu
understood that there was currently a “fairly narrow window of
opportunity” because Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad were
willing “to make concessions and engage in negotiations that can result
in peace, but that their time frame in power might be limited if they
can’t deliver for their people.”
Obama points to Emanuel, Axelrod as proof that he supports Israel, Jews
Asked about the lack of trust
many Israelis had in him and his commitment to Israel, Obama said this
was ironic, considering that “I’ve got a chief of staff named Rahm
Israel Emanuel, and my top political adviser [David Axelrod] is somebody
who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors.”
Obama said his
closeness to the American Jewish community “is probably what propelled
me to the US Senate,” and that his “knowledge, sympathy and
identification with the Jewish experience” is rooted in part with the
“historic connection with the African-American freedom movement here in
the US, and the civil rights efforts of Jewish Americans, and some of
the same impulses that led to the creation of Israel.”
said that some of the mistrust of him in Israel stemmed from the
suspicion caused by his middle name, Hussein, and that he had actively
made overtures to the Muslim world.
“I think that sometimes,
particularly in the Middle East, there is a feeling that the friend of
my enemy must be my enemy,” he said. “The truth of the matter is that my
outreach to the Muslim community is designed precisely to reduce the
antagonism and the dangers posed by a hostile Muslim world to Israel and
Obama said Netanyahu would attest “that the US under
my administration has provided more security assistance to Israel than
any administration in history, and we have greater security cooperation
between our two countries than at any time in our history.
the single most important threat to Israel – Iran – has been my No. 1
foreign policy priority over the last 18 months. So it’s hard, I think,
to look at that track record, and look at my public statements, and in
any way think my passion for Israel’s survival, security and its people
are in any way diminished.”
Obama is convinced Israel will not make a unilateral strike on Iran
Regarding Iran, Obama said that the
US would continually ratchet up the cost to Iran of pursuing its nuclear
weapons program, while at the same time “keeping the door open for a
diplomatic resolution for this challenge” and not taking any “options
off the table.”
Asked whether he was concerned about unilateral
Israeli military action, Obama replied, “I think the relationship
between the United States and Israel is sufficiently strong, and that
neither of us tries to surprise each other, but that we try to
coordinate on issues of regional concern. That approach is one that I
think Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to.”
Obama’s obvious overture to the Israeli public, White House spokesman
Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that Obama had no plans to visit Israel this
year. Netanyahu invited him during their meeting on Tuesday.
not on the books at this point,” Gibbs said.
At a special
meeting Wednesday of the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations, Netanyahu characterized his talks with Obama as
“very good” and said he expected direct talks with the PA, with the end
goal of achieving a demilitarized Palestinian state, to commence “right
“I want to enter direct talks with the Palestinian
leadership now,” Netanyahu said he had told Obama.
“I call on
Abbas to meet me to begin peace talks so we can fashion a final peace
between Israel and its Palestinian leaders.
will start right away,” Netanyahu told the audience of over 500
attendees in the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. “I hope they will and
believe they will very soon.”
Netanyahu to Obama - 'We want Palestinians to have independent life'
In an answer to a question about
peace negotiations, Netanyahu alluded obliquely to a possibility that
neighborhoods within Jerusalem itself would be up for discussion in the
context of peace talks.
“Everybody knows that there are Jewish
neighborhoods in Jerusalem that under any peace plan will remain where
they are,” Netanyahu said, implying that there could be Arab
neighborhoods in Jerusalem that might not remain under Israeli rule.
said he had told Obama that he wanted to see a demilitarized
Palestinian state that would recognize the State of Israel.
don’t want to govern the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said he had stated to
Obama. “We want to make sure that they have their own independent,
dignified life, but that they don’t threaten the State of Israel.”
told the group that he had expressed his concern to Obama that areas
previously vacated in an attempt to make peace were now being used as
staging grounds for terror attacks against Israel.
was withdrawal from Lebanon. Strike two: withdrawal from Gaza,”
Netanyahu said. “We cannot have a strike three.”
Netanyahu: Israel's biggest challenges are a nuclear Iran and lasting peace
In his remarks,
Netanyahu said the two greatest challenges Israel faced were preventing
Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and advancing a “secure and
prosperous peace” with the Palestinians. He complimented Obama on his
efforts to derail Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons with sanctions,
but noted, “I cannot tell you that [sanctions] will stop Iran’s nuclear
program. It is important to understand that it must be stopped.”
also spoke to the theme of asserting the legitimacy of the Jewish
“The Jews will no longer be passive victims of history,”
he said to the approval of the gathered crowd. “We are now actors on the
stage of history. We now chart our own
“For 2,000 years, the Jews were the perfect victims,” he said. “They may
be perfectly moral, but they’re still victims.The purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives. The standard
that must be applied to Israel is not perfection, but the standard
applied to any other country faced with similar circumstances.”
“I think he covered all the bases,” the Conference’s vice chairman,
Malcolm Hoenlein, told The Jerusalem Post after the speech. “He is
clearly intent on moving the peace process forward, and is issuing a
challenge to Abbas to come forward as well.”