“Let’s talk doogri
(straightforward),” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on
Friday as he urged the Palestinians to hold peace talks with him in New York
that same day.
He made his appeal at the UN General Assembly, which had
just given Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a standing
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In an emotional speech, Abbas urged the international community
to grant his people unilateral statehood. Netanyahu was not in the
chamber when Abbas delivered his speech.
The prime minister received a
much cooler reception when he spoke to the forum about the importance of
granting Palestinians statehood through negotiations, rather than by any
unilateral moves at the United Nations.
“There’s an old Arab saying that
you cannot applaud with one hand. Well, the same is true of peace. I cannot make
peace alone. I cannot make peace without you. President Abbas, I extend my hand
– the hand of Israel – in peace. I hope that you will grasp that hand,” said
Although it was standing room only in the gallery, and on the
sidelines of the room during Abbas’s speech, by the time Netanyahu took the
podium, the crowd had already cleared out.
Most of the applause came from
Israeli supporters in the top gallery.
Netanyahu spoke of his frustration
at the Palestinian refusal to negotiate; explaining that he had made many
gestures toward them.
“In two-and-a-half years, we met in Jerusalem only
once – even though my door has always been open to you.
“If you wish,
I’ll come to Ramallah. Actually, I have a better suggestion. We’ve both just
flown thousands of miles to New York. Now we’re in the same city. We’re in the
same building. So let’s meet here today in the United Nations... I’ll
tell you my needs and concerns. You’ll tell me yours. And with God’s
help, we’ll find the common ground of peace.”
In the last weeks, he said,
the US had put forward a proposal to restart the talks, which he had accepted,
even though he was not pleased with all the details involved – particularly when
it came to the issue of borders, he said.
Netanyahu took issue with
Abbas’s stance that West Bank settlements are at the root of the conflict. The
real issue, he said, is the Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state
within any borders.
He compared Israel’s record on minorities,
particularly Arabs, with that of the Palestinian statements regarding
Israel, Netanyahu said, protects the rights of its minorities,
including its Arab citizens, whereas the Palestinians have said that they won’t
allow Jews to live in their state, he said.
“They’ll be Jew-free –
Judenrein. That’s ethnic cleansing,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said, was a critical element of any agreement with the Palestinians, including Israel’s
ability to maintain a military presence in portions of the West
“President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are
armed only with their hopes and dreams.
“Yeah, hopes, dreams and 10,000
missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran,” he said.
Israel has a
history of making peace offers to the Palestinians that have been rejected with
dangerous consequences, he said, including withdrawing from Gaza in
“We did exactly what the theory says: Get out, go back to the 1967
borders, dismantle the settlements,” Netanyahu said.
All that happened,
he said, is that Iran used Hamas to get rid of the PA in Gaza. Israel is
concerned that the same thing would happen in the West Bank if it withdraws, he
“I want to ask you: Would any of you – would any of you bring
danger so close to your cities, to your families?” he asked.
That is why
there must be security arrangements as part of any agreement for a two-state
solution, he said.
If the Palestinians turned to the UN for membership
after reaching a peace deal, Israel would be the first country to recognize it,
“The truth is that we cannot achieve peace through UN
resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties,” he said.
“Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state
Netanyahu attacked the UN for its poor record on Israel,
calling it the “theater of the absurd.”
“It doesn’t only cast Israel as
the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles,” he said.
prime minister reminded the UN that Libya, under the leadership of Muammar
Gaddafi, had chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights and that Iraq under
Saddam Hussein had headed the UN Committee on Disarmament.