'Israel won't change its policies'

Ahead of US visit, PM stresses Jerusalem is no different from Tel Aviv.

March 21, 2010 11:54
1 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (AP).

netanyahu flag 311. (photo credit: AP)

Israeli will neither change policies that have been upheld by its various governments since 1967 nor halt construction in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed at Sunday's cabinet meeting.

“We will clarify that building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said. A final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, he said, could only be reached at the conclusion of direct talks in which the two sides "sit together and sort the issues out." The prime minister said that the planned proximity talks – indirect negotiations with US mediation – would enable the two sides to individually state their case, but would not facilitate an enduring peace process.

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Netanyahu said his position would remain unflagging during his visit to Washington later on Sunday, and that he would clarify that to the Obama administration.

While in the US, Netanyahu will attend the AIPAC conference and meet with several US officials.

Prior to the cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak - who will be accompanying Netanyahu to Washington - expressed hope that negotiations with the Palestinians would be renewed this week. “I hope we will begin to advance on a track of intensive negotiations, and not just proximity talks,” Channel 10 quoted him as saying.

According to the news channel, Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog assessed that Israel would eventually adopt “former [US] president [Bill] Clinton’s formula – whatever is in Jewish hands stays in Israel, and whatever is in Palestinian hands stays Palestinian.”

Meanwhile on Sunday, former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami told Army Radio that the Obama administration was liable to present a unilateral plan to “force a peace agreement on the Israelis and Palestinians."

Citing an American official, Ben-Ami said the US was planning to present its own plan for peace in the Middle East, and that such pressure could cause the Netanyahu coalition to crumble.

Last week, leading figures in the Obama administration, among them US Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, expressed severe criticism of Israel for approving new Jewish construction in Jerusalem even as the peace process hovers on the brink of renewal and the Arab population of the capital continues to protest the municipality’s home demolitions.

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