Palestinian acceptance of a demilitarized state and recognition that Israel is the Jewish homeland are both critical for long-term peace, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors on Monday.
“The conflict has to be resolved with the solidity of the Jewish state ensured, both in terms of recognition and also in terms of security arrangements,” Netanyahu said.
He spoke with them amidst a renewed international push to restart the peace process, which has been largely frozen for over years.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming weeks, followed by a visit from President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu said he viewed their visits as an opportunity to “get back to the business of genuine negotiations – direct, unimpeded negotiations without preconditions.”
He carefully clarified that the elements needed for a longterm peace were not also preconditions for renewed talks, which he believes should begin immediately.
“I’m not placing these conditions before the entrance gate,” he said. “I have a clear idea of what has to be done to achieve a workable peace. I’m prepared to do it, but I don’t place any conditions on entering negotiations.
“I don’t think we should spend or waste another four years negotiating about the negotiations. I think we should just get on with it,” Netanyahu said.
But once those talks begin, it’s not “only Israel that has to make concessions... The Palestinians will have to make concessions too,” he said. “That’s part of the world, and that’s part of a genuine, workable and durable peace.”
But, should both sides sign a final status agree, Netanyahu was clear that a piece of paper did not guarantee peace.
“We need a peace process and a peace result that gives us peace and gives us security; and that is not achieved by merely signing a piece of paper,” Netanyahu said.
For that peace to work, Israel has to know that Hamas or other terror groups won’t take over the Palestinian territory, as they did in Gaza after Israel withdrew in 2005, Netanyahu said.
In addition, Jews must have the rights to return to Israel and the state must retain its Jewish identity, one that is also recognize by the Palestinians, he said.
“This is the state of the Jews,” he said.