No one can say anymore with a straight face that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of instability in the Middle East, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday.
"I think today everybody understands that the root cause of the instability in the Middle East and beyond has to do with the convulsion that is historic and cultural in nature of which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is merely one of many, many such manifestations," Netanyahu told Ban.
Ban arrived in Israel Thursday afternoon for a 36-hour visit to show his support for the renewed Israel-Palestinian negotiations. He met with PA President Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah Thursday afternoon.
Netanyahu, speaking alongside Ban – a persistent critic of Israel's settlement policies – said that the root cause of the continuation of the conflict was not settlement construction but the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary.
"It doesn’t have to do with the settlements," he said at the Prime Minister's Office during statements to the press before the meeting. "That's an issue that has to be resolved, but this is not the reason that we have a continual conflict. The conflict preceded the establishment of a single settlement by half a century and when we rooted out all the settlements in Gaza, the attacks continued because of this basic opposition to the Jewish State."
Netanyahu said that it was "important to understand" that the real issues were not if Israel builds a few hundred apartments in Gilo, Ramot or in "urban blocks" that everybody knows, including the Palestinian negotiating team, will be part of Israel in a final agreement.
"The real issue is how to get a demilitarized Palestinian state to finally recognize and accept the one and only Jewish State," he said.
Netanyahu called on Ban to look into what he said was the abuse of UNRWA camps in Gaza which was running "peace camps" that were actually being used to "instill the culture of hatred and the ideas of destroying Israel amidst Palestinian children. It’s very hard to habituate and prepare the next generation for peace when they’re told that Jews are the descendents of pigs and monkeys and that the Jewish State has no right to exist, so I trust that you will make sure that these abuses of UN goals and UN funds does not continue."
Channel 2 this week aired a report of one such summer camp in which school aged children were being taught hatred of Jews.
In a separate meeting with the UN secretary general, Israeli peace negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the talks have provided an opening "not only to relaunch negotiations but also to change the allies and alliances in the region."
"I believe there are parts in the Arab world that for them relaunching the negotiations can be an opportunity to support this and to work together against the extremists," she said, alluding to the turmoil in Egypt and Syria's civil war.
On Friday, Ban also laid a wreath at the grave of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in a symbolic act meant to underscore his support for the renewed diplomatic process.
"As Secretary-General of the United Nations it is a great honor for me to work together with the people of Israel to build upon his (Rabin's) legacy," Ban said at the grave. "He has left a great legacy of peace and security of the world."
"I sincerely hope that both parties, Israelis and Palestinians, now they have just started very important peace negotiations, will remember the legacy of Prime Minister Rabin and realize a two-state solution," he said. "I am sorry that Mr. Rabin has not lived to see his vision realized. [It is for] his children and also the people of Israel to realize this vision. The United Nations is committed. That is why I am here to lend my full support to this ongoing Middle East peace process."
Reuters contributed to this report.