PM: US turned down 3-month freeze, Israel was willing

Netanyahu says he has supported 2-state solution since '96; Livni responds, "It's amazing how you describe alternative realities."

netanyahu stinkeye 311 (photo credit: Haim Tzach)
netanyahu stinkeye 311
(photo credit: Haim Tzach)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he was ready to accept an extended settlement freeze but that the United States, in fact, backed away from the deal.
"At the end of the day, the United States decided not to go in that direction, justly so, and moved on to outlining talks on closing gaps, so that the core issues can be discussed," the prime minister explained.
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Noting that his government had already agreed to a 10-month freeze, Netanyahu said, "The truth is that we were ready to do it again, contrary to reports that Israel refused to extend it."
The prime minister said that after he told US President Barack Obama that he could get the cabinet to approve an extended settlement freeze, he received a message that "the Americans were asking to back down from the issue."
Netanyahu also touched on his support for a two-state solution, blaming the lack of progress on the Palestinians. He said that there is no coalition agreement that could stop the political process. He added that when he first formed his government he contacted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but did not receive an answer.
The prime minister also said that he has supported a "two states for two peoples" solution since 1996 and claimed that he had even expressed that position within the Likud. His statement drew a harsh response from opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
Reacting to Netanyahu's claims that he is a long-time supporter of a two-state solution, Livni retorted, "It's amazing how you describe alternate realities and claim that it's reality."
Pointing out that in 2002, Likud passed a resolution denouncing the establishment of a Palestinian state, Livni repeated her recent statements that Netanyahu's leadership is "harming Israel's security interests."
Also at the committee meeting, Netanyahu projected that operational training for Israel's new firefighting squadron of aircraft will be completed summer 2011. The government, during the first stages of training, will rent planes and employ Canadian pilots until Israeli pilots have been properly trained.
The prime minister said that this new squadron, which will be under the authority of the IDF, will not only deal with forest and large fires, but also with extinguishing fires caused by missiles during wartime.