Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas to the negotiating table in a speech to the Knesset on
“I call on Abbas to put preconditions aside and talk. Give
peace a chance,” Netanyahu said in English, quoting the John Lennon
The prime minister spoke during a Knesset debate called by the
opposition to discuss the stalled peace process and the Arab League peace
Netanyahu mentioned foreign government officials visiting
Israel, saying “They all know Israel is not the side avoiding negotiations,” and
that he speaks to US Secretary of State John Kerry several times a
“The citizens of Israel want security and peace; I want security
and peace,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu expressed hope that Abbas
would say yes to his invitation, and pointed out to MKs who accused him of not
being willing to return to peace talks that he had invited Abbas to negotiate
while speaking at the UN, in Washington and several times in the
Despite these invitations, Netanyahu added, he had only spoken
to Abbas for a few hours over the past four years.
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The prime minister
repeated several times that Abbas should not set preconditions for
“The most important thing is not to try to stop negotiations
before they’re started. Don’t have endless talks about starting talks,” he said.
“We will listen to any initiative and are willing to discuss any offer that is
not a dictate.”
Netanyahu delineated his policy to prevent weapons from
reaching Hezbollah or Hamas from Syria, saying he described it to US President
Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in March and to Russian President
In her rebuttal, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich
accused Netanyahu of turning Israel into a binational state, which she said went
against the vision of Zionism.
“You’re not the national camp, we’re the
national camp. You’re the binational camp,” the Labor Party chairwoman told
Yacimovich called for Netanyahu to break out of the diplomatic
freeze and talk to Arab countries that oppose Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in order
to make progress in negotiations with the Palestinians.
“No one is living
in a fantasy that we’ll come to an agreement tomorrow. It’s all right to be
skeptical about the ability to reach our goal, but we must set that goal and at
least come to an interim agreement,” she said.
The opposition leader
quoted heads of opposition parties who favor peace talks, such as Yesh Atid
chairman Yair Lapid, who said he would not sit in a government that did not
“Our justice minister [Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni] is in
the government for the sole purpose of peace talks. Every other word she says is
that she wants to ‘sit in a closed room [with the Palestinians],’” Yacimovich
“Be brave. Make your last term as prime minister one that matters,
that will take advantage of the regional and internal opportunity,” she
The Labor leader told Netanyahu her party would support him if he
negotiated: “Your coalition partners are making your life miserable anyway, so
what do you have to lose? We’re your rivals but, as fate would have it, we are
your defensive shield.”
Peace was an Israeli interest, and we should not
pursue it only because the world was asking us to, but because we should take
our own fate into our own hands, Yacimovich said.
Still, she said, “it
would not be good – and this is an understatement – if the US got sick of
Yacimovich called for the government to take the opportunity for
peace talks in its hands, and lift its eyes toward hope.
ministers] Rabin, Begin and Sharon were not less patriotic than [Netanyahu], and
they chose, each in his own way, hope and courage. Stop with the scare tactics.
We deserve more,” she concluded.
Earlier in the debate, representatives
of all the Knesset’s parties discussed peace talks.
“Our great Rabbi
Ovadia Yosef ruled in favor of giving up land for peace because it saves lives.
However, peace has to be mutual, otherwise it is not peace,” Shas leader Arye
Deri criticized the 2005 Gaza disengagement, calling it
“stupidity” to evacuate “modest, righteous people, the salt of the earth” from
their homes and get tens of thousands of rockets shot into Israel in
“Rabin said that before we make peace with our enemies, we need
peace among ourselves,” Deri recounted.
“Unfortunately, this government
has several ministers who incite.”
Bayit Yehudi faction leader Ayelet
Shaked said that most Israelis would not agree to the concessions the Arab
League initiative entails.
“Some people latch on to any spin by our
These are the same people who pushed us into a ‘New Middle East’
and the Oslo tragedy that cost the lives of 1,500 Israelis, created thousands of
widows and orphans, tens of thousands of people injured and billions in economic
loss,” she said.
The government was not “crazy enough to put our fate in
the hands [of the Arab League] and we are not insane enough to give up our
country and our capital,” Shaked said.
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