Netanyahu: Israel committed to 'secure, durable' peace

After meeting Obama PM says he seeks "peace that will end the conflict with the Palestinians once and for all, that will last generations."

Netanyahu face in Washington 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Netanyahu face in Washington 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Washington -- Israel is committed to forging a “secure and durable” peace with the Palestinians, not a “brief interlude between two wars,” or a “temporary respite between outbursts of terror,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night at the White House at a dinner before Thursday’s long awaited re-launch of direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
“We seek a peace that will end the conflict between us once and for all,” he said, according to a copy of his statement made available before the event, which took place after press time. “We seek a peace that will last for generations. This is the peace my people want. This is the peace we all deserve.”
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Netanyahu’s comments came several hours after he met US President Barack Obama Wednesday morning for some two hours. Following that meeting a senior official in Netanyahu’s entourage said that if it was only up to Obama and Netanyahu, a deal could be reached easily.. The question, he said, was “whether [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas has the political will to make a deal.”
Netanyahu and Abbas are scheduled to meet Thursday morning with their teams at the State Department to formally launch the talks.
In his statement before the White House dinner, Netanyahu said that while he has “been making the case for Israel all my life,” he did not “come here to win an argument. I came here to forge a peace.”
“I did not come here to play a blame game where even the winners lose,” he said. “I came here to achieve a peace that will bring benefits to all.”
Then, in an apparent reference to the Palestinian threat to walk away from the talks if the 10-month old settlement-construction moratorium is not renewed, Netanyahu said “I did not come here to find excuses. I came here to find solutions.”
The dinner at the White House, hosted by Obama, was -- in addition to Netanyahu and Abbas -- also attended by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah II, and Quartet envoy Tony Blair. They were also all expected to deliver statements.
Netanyahu’s statement included two central themes that he continuously stresses -- the Jewish people’s historic connection to Israel, and the country’s genuine security concerns.
“The Jewish people are not strangers in our homeland, the land of our forefathers,” he said. “But we recognize that another people shares this land with us. And I came here today to fin a historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security and dignity.”
Regarding Israel’s security demands, Netanyahu -- after referring to Tuesday’s terrorist attack -- said peace “must also be defended against its enemies."
“We want the skyline of the West Bank to be dominated by apartment towers, not missiles," he said. “We want the roads of the West bank to flow with commerce, not terrorists.
Netanyahu said that when Israel left Lebanon, “we got terror,” and when it left Gaza, “we got terror." He said that a “defensible peace requires security arrangements" that will stand the test of time and ensure that territory Israel concedes will not be turned into “a third Iranian sponsored terror enclave aimed at the heart of Israel."
The security threats, illustrated by Tuesdays terrorist attack, was the central theme of statements both Obama and Netanyahu made to the press following their White House meeting. In his statement, which was not originally in the day’s schedule, Obama said he wanted “everybody to be very clear: the United State is going to be unwavering it its support of Israel’s security and we are going to push back against these kinds of terrorist activities.”
After expressing the “deepest condolences of the American people to the families of those who were gunned down,” Obama thanked Netanyahu for being “so committed to the cause of peace” as to have gone ahead with the trip to Washington despite the events.
Senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that during his meeting with the President, Netanyahu said that the peace agreement had to be anchored in real security arrangements on the ground. Tuesday’s terrorist attack demonstrate the country’s security problems, and the senior official said that “peace is not driving on a road and being shot at by a firing squad.”
The senior official said that contrary to the Europeans, Obama seemed convinced of Netanyahu and Israel’s sincerity in aiming to forge a comprehensive peace agreement.
In addition to his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu also held bilateral meetings with Mubarak, Abdullah and Blair.
The senior official, asked whether the Prime Minister believed that a peace agreement would necessitate uprooting settlements, said that Netanyahu believes it is necessary to think in different terms about a number of issues because “the models we used in the past did not prove themselves, not regarding security nor the settlements.
Without giving specifics, the official said Netanyahu was “thinking differently, creatively” about different solutions.
Regarding a proposal Mubarak laid out in Wednesday’s New York Times about the need for an international force in the West Bank for an agreed amount of time to build trust between the sides, the official said that Netanyahu -- while he has not completely ruled out the idea -- does not believe that these types of forces have proven themselves in the past.
Netanyahu has, during his stay in Washington, attempted to play down the whole settlement moratorium issue, steering away from it in comments and statements. However, following a meeting Tuesday night with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu released a statement saying that he told Clinton there has been no change in the government’s decision on the moratorium, and that it is effect until the end of September.
“It is impossible to take the issue of settlements in Judea and Samaria, which is part of a final agreement, and deal with it separately form all the other issues already at the outset of the direct talks,” he said. Netanyahu said that Israel did not set out its own pre-conditions for the talks, and was not looking for “an excuse” for them to fail.