Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Prime Minister Netanyahu told visiting United States lawmakers on Monday that he was willing to
travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,
according a source in the meeting.
The 27 Republican congressmen who
spoke with Netanyahu are among a group of 81 lawmakers who are visiting Israel
this month, in three separate trips organized by the American Israel Education
Foundation, part of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
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congressmen asked Netanyahu if he had a message for Abbas, who they plan to meet
with later this week.
Netanyahu suggested they ask the Palestinian leader
The first involved Abbas’s refusal to negotiate with
Israel until it halts Jewish construction in east Jerusalem and the West
“Ask him, ‘why don’t you come and negotiate with Israel,’”
Netanyahu said. “I am willing to immediately start direct negotiations with him
without preconditions. I am willing to invite him to my house in Jerusalem and I
am willing to go to Ramallah,” said Netanyahu.
He joked that a Ramallah
trip would drive his security detail crazy.
“They won’t be happy,” he
The second question, he told the congressmen, involves Israel’s
identity as a Jewish state.
“Ask Abu Mazen why he refuses to recognize
the legitimacy of the Jewish state. I have recognized a Palestinian state, he
[Abbas] should be able to recognize a Jewish state,” Netanyahu said, according
to the source.
He spoke with the lawmakers about the importance of a US
veto against the anticipated Palestinian bid for unilateral statehood at the
United Nations Security Council in September. The US is one of five countries
out of the 15- member body, that can veto the Palestinian statehood
It has already stated its opposition to such a
Netanyahu told the US lawmakers that a UN vote in favor of
Palestinian statehood would harden the Palestinian position for years and make
it extremely difficult to negotiate a peace agreement.
arrangements have to be built into a final status agreement, so that Israel
remains secure if the peace unravels. The agreement, he said, must be phased and
contain certain safeguards.
Israel, he told the lawmakers, does not
intend to cede to the Palestinian request to return to the pre-1967
He also spoke of the danger of a unified Fatah and Hamas
Turning to Sinai, Netanyahu said that terrorist
activity backed by Iran and al-Qaida has been increasing there in the last few
The threat of a nuclear Iran continues to endanger Israel, the
Middle East and the entire world, Netanyahu said.
He praised US President
Barack Obama for his sanctions against Iran, but said that such economic
measures must be coupled with a credible military threat.
“Iran is the
largest danger standing before us today. It is what motivates the leading
radical elements and leads to instability in the region. Its goal is to destroy
any chance of democratic governance, peace and freedom in the Middle East,”
He thanked the congressmen for their support and that of
their country regarding the missile defense system, Iron Dome, which thwarts
Palestinian launched missiles from Gaza.
This system is already deployed
and has succeeded in intercepting missiles aimed at Israeli citizens, he said.