Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged the Palestinians to “stick with” direct
talks as he pledged his commitment to the peace process in conversations with
three top international leaders Wednesday — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,
Quartet special envoy Tony Blair and United States Secretary of State Hillary
He held the three diplomatic conversations as Palestinians in
Ramallah weighed pulling out of preliminary talks with Israel, five rounds of
which were held in Amman in January. No new date has been set for future
“You can not complete the peace process unless you begin it. If
you begin it, you have to be consistent and stick to it,” Netanyahu said during
a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Ban.
The UN secretary-general
is in Israel and the Palestinian territories for a two-day visit, his second
since taking office in 2007.
In his conversation with Ban and in a
separate face-to-face meeting in Jerusalem with Blair, Netanyahu asked them to
help facilitate future talks.
Ban pledged his support to the continued
“You can count me in on working together for peace and
stability in this region,” he said.
During a phone conversation later in
the day with Clinton, Netanyahu said he wanted to continue the talks but that
Israel’s security interest must be preserved.
Ban lauded Netanyahu for
his commitment to peace but at the same time urged him to halt settlement
He also asked him to advance the peace process with
concrete proposals on borders and security as well as concessionary gestures to
“I hope Israel will be forthcoming with its own
concrete proposals on territory and security as called for by the Quartet in
order to reach an agreement on all final status issues before the end of this
year,” he told Netanyahu.
The prime minister, however, said he rejected
the link between settlements and the peace process.
is not the core of the conflict, but one of its results, Netanyahu said. He
noted that at least 50 years prior to 1967 the Palestinians and other Arab
countries tried to eliminate Israel, even though there was not a single
settlement or soldier in the West Bank.
“The real cause of the conflict
is the [Palestinians] persistent refusal to recognize the state of Israel as the
state of the Jewish people. That is the heart of the conflict,” Netanyahu
He added that this should be one of the first topics under
discussion, not as a pre-condition, but as part of the mutual
Israel, he said, recognizes that as part of the peace
process a painful agreement is necessary.
But in Ramallah Abbas said he
did not yet know if the peace process would continue.
He added that he
would hold consultations with Arab countries and various Palestinian groups on
the future of the peace talks with Israel.
Speaking to reporters after
his meeting with Ban, Abbas said he would brief Arab League foreign ministers
later this week on the outcome of the recent talks in Amman between the PLO and
Abbas said the PA leadership would consult with the Arab
ministers and representatives of Palestinian factions about the steps the PA
should take given that it believes the Jordan talks failed.
his demand for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, including east
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, said
the Palestinians would not return to the “exploratory” talks with Israel unless
it froze all construction in the settlements and recognized the pre- 1967 lines
as the borders of a Palestinian state. Israel has rejected that
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu) told Ban he
did not believe the Palestinians wanted to advance peace. Instead, he warned,
they would seek to sabotage the talks in an attempt to justify further
unilateral actions at the United Nations.
Turning to the threat posed by
Tehran to Middle Eastern stability, Lieberman told Ban that Iran could attempt
to take control of Iraq, thereby creating a regional alliance consisting of
Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
This, he said, would endanger regional security
and would pose a particular threat to both Israel and Jordan.
about Iran in his meeting with Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and
Standing with Netanyahu he called on Iran to comply with all
the UN Security Council resolutions and to prove that their nuclear program was
for peaceful purposes.
“I have made this quite clear to the Iranian
authorities,” he said. “These issues can be resolved in a peaceful way through
dialogue. There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution.”
that he was particularly concerned by the latest report by the International
Atomic Energy Association, which said that Iran’s nuclear program could have a
He said he was waiting for additional information
from a senior level monitoring team.
Ban plans to travel Thursday to Gaza
and to visit the Sapir Academic College near Sderot, which has been the target
of numerous rockets from Gaza.
Ban has called on the Palestinians to halt
rocket fire and for Israel to make further humanitarian gestures to Gaza.