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Palestinian recognition of the Jewish nature of Israel is an essential condition to peace, as well as their willingness to relinquish the demand that the descendents of Palestinian refugees be allowed to resettle in the Jewish state, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
"The key to peace lies in explicit and unequivocal recognition of Israel as the Jewish state on the part of the Palestinians. They must once and for all give up the demand to resettle inside of Israel the descendents of the refugees," Netanyahu said during a Jerusalem memorial ceremony marking 105 years since the death of Theodor Herzl.
According to Netanyahu, the leaders of the Palestinians must say, "We have had enough of this conflict; we recognize Israel as Jewish; we will live alongside you in true peace.
"As soon as that is stated," Netanyahu continued, "a huge window to peace will be opened."
Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with him as soon as possible in order to renew peace talks.
"Let's make peace - both diplomatic peace and economic peace," Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting in Beersheba that was held there as an act of solidarity with the Negev capital. "There is no reason why we can't meet, the Palestinian Authority president and I, anywhere in Israel, and since we are in Beersheba, I say, let's meet here.
"The Palestinian population living alongside us has a basic right to live in peace, security and prosperity," he stressed. "In recent weeks, we have made great efforts to ease their lives. We've removed many roadblocks, we have decided to increase the operating hours of the Allenby Bridge for more goods, and I've decided to advance a series of projects with the Palestinians to promote peace. But all these efforts can only bring us to a certain point, and the results will be multiplied by the dozen if there is cooperation from the other side."
Reaching out to Arab countries, as well as to Palestinian leaders, he said, "Let's meet, let's cooperateâ€¦ We have the ability to bring many players on board."
During the meeting, the prime minister announced the resumption of the project to construct a train line between Eilat and central Israel. He said the line would be a "trade route between Asia and Europe and will open the entire South for [Israeli] travelers."