Netanyahu: Settlements are an issue but not the main issue

Nonetheless, the prime minister says it is vital for Israel to "retain security control" in the West Bank.

A CONSTRUCTION site in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev, near Jerusalem [File] (photo credit: REUTERS)
A CONSTRUCTION site in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev, near Jerusalem [File]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Palestinian refusal to accept Israel, not settlements, is the main roadblock to peace.
Speaking with MSNBC's Greta Van Susteren late on Thursday evening, he was asked why both US President Donald Trump and former US President Barack Obama have pegged Israeli settlements as a roadblock to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Netanyahu responded that he thinks settlements are "an issue, but I don't think it's the issue."
The interview comes the day after his first meeting with Trump at the White House, where Trump asking Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a bit."
Trump tells Israel to "hold back on settlements" during meeting with Netanyahu at White House on Feb. 15, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)
"The real core of the conflict is not this or that settlement or this or that community," Netanyahu told Van Susteren, "but rather the persistent and enduring Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary."
He also said it was vital for Israel to "retain security control of the area west of the Jordan River," referring to the West Bank
Turning to the topic of peace in the region, Netanyahu said there was great potential for a broader peace between Israel and Arab countries in the Middle East, saying that Arab countries are beginning to view Israel as an ally for confronting Iran and Islamic State. "That has been bringing us closer together and may also pave avenues for peace."
When asked to specifically name a country that has been softening its stance toward Israel he said "who's not?" to which Van Susteren responded that "Iran's not." Netanyahu responded back that Iran is not an Arab country.