PM: Recognition of Jewish state is 'core of the conflict'

Netanyahu says J'lem won't budge on demand for recognition, Jordan Valley presence, in AFP interview; calls settlements "derivative issue."

Netanyahu 311 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Netanyahu 311 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
Jerusalem will not budge on its demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the "core of the conflict," in an interview with AFP before the Pessah holiday.
Confirming that he was working on an initiative he will present before a joint session of the US Congress next month, Netanyahu abstained from giving any details of the plan in the interview.
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The prime minister told AFP that "the core of the conflict has always been the persistent refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize the Jewish state in any borders."
"That is why this conflict raged for nearly 50 years before 1967, before there was a single settlement in the West Bank," he added.
Questioning the Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution, Netanyahu asked, "Why don't the Palestinians do something so simple as recognizing the Jewish state? After all, we are prepared to recognize a Palestinian state. Why can't they reciprocate if they really want peace?"
The refusal, he said, explains the root cause of the lack of peace.
Addressing Israeli security concerns, Netanyahu explained the long-time demand for an IDF presence along the Jordan Valley, shooting down the idea of an international force providing protection on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state.
"We need a physical barrier to prevent penetration by Iran and its operatives," he said.
The prime minister speculated that an international force along the Jordan Valley would not remain in place long enough to serve the vital security interests of the Jewish state.
He compared the scenario to the situation that evolved following the 2006 Disengagement Plan from Gaza, in which a European security force was deployed to monitor the Strip's border with Egypt in order to stop smuggling of weapons and movement of terrorists.
Following the Israeli pullout from Gaza, he said, the European force left shortly after Hamas took over, adding that the force's departure allowed Iran to easily penetrate the Strip's southern border, filling it with weapons.
Netanyahu also addressed the issue of settlements, which in the the eyes of the Palestinians and the international community, has recently become one of the central issues in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The settlements, the prime minister said, "are a derivative issue, not the core of the conflict." He added that negotiations were the only way for Palestinians to achieve statehood.
He charged that the Palestinian Authority has abandoned the path of negotiations in favor of seeking unilateral declarations from the international community and the United Nations.
"The Palestinians think: Why should we negotiate? We can get a free pass from the international community. We can avoid negotiations and pin the blame on Israel," he said.
The prime minister said that while going to the United Nations might result in added political pressure landing on Israel, it would not help end the conflict.
"I am willing to negotiate right now -- is the Palestinian leadership willing to do that? No. Because they want to avoid the negotiations -- they want an imposed solution."