Netanyahu: Israel ready to resume talks

PM tells AIPAC conference PA must recognize Jewish state; calls for talks on economic fronts.

netanyahu speaks 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
netanyahu speaks 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday night stressed the importance of peace, calling for a three-tiered approach to working toward a resolution with the Palestinians. "We want peace with the Arab world. We also want peace with the Palestinians," he declared. At the same time, he insisted that "the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state," something the Palestinians have rejected. Still, he told at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference Monday night, "We are prepared to resume peace negotiations without any delay, without any preconditions. The sooner the better." The PM, who addressed the thousands of Congressmen, diplomats and pro-Israel activists by satellite from Israel, was speaking ahead of his own visit to Washington. Since coming into office, his largely right-wing government has struck a different tone from America when it comes the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, leading some to conclude that the US and Israel are on a collision course on the issue. Notably, Netanyahu has declined to publicly support a Palestinian state, a major goal of the Obama administration. In his comments to AIPAC, Netanyahu did not refer to a two-state solution, but he called for working on three fronts with the Palestinians: political, security and economic. The first front, he said, would be the resumption of negotiations, while the economic plank would constitute trying to improve the situation and prosperity of Palestinians on the ground. On security, he said that he would never compromise Israelis' safety, but that he wanted to rush ahead with the work of US General Keith Dayton to train Palestinian forces in the West Bank. He also stated emphatically, "Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons." Iran is set to be a major topic of Netanyahu's conversations with Obama and other top American officials later in the month, as Israel has expressed wariness about how long the US might focus on talks with Iran as Teheran continues to improve its nuclear capability.