Monday, November 30, 2009
Netanyahu: Israel wants peace, but Palestinians don't seem ready
Gili Izikovitch, Haaretz Correspondent
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel was fully committed to renewing Middle East peace negotiations, but questioned whether the Palestinian Authority was prepared to enter the political process. "It is clear today, to anyone willing to check the facts, that Israel wants peace - to enter the peace process with the aspiration of fulfilling it," Netanyahu told the annual Eilat Journalists Conference. "I don't see the same firmness on the other side."
According to Netanyahu, the government is doing everything in its power to advance the peace process, but has found itself stymied by obstacles from the Palestinian side.
"I see preconditions being laid that never before existed. I see legal steps being taken at the international court to advance that absurd thing called the Goldstone report. You can't reach peace if the horizon is moving away, and it is moving away because of the stereotype," Netanyahu said, referring to common perceptions of him being a hawk.
The prime minister was also referring to the Palestinian Authority's endorsement of the Goldstone Commission's damning report on the Gaza war, and to complaints it had submitted against Israel to the International Criminal Court.
"I think they need to decide to enter negotiations, because only if we start them, we can finish them," he said.
The prime minister declared that his government was willing to make concessions for peace, difficult as they may be.
"It will be difficult, it will require many concessions from us, it will require self-abnegation, to abandon many of the tactical procedure,s" said Netanyahu. "And that is a strategic decision."
"We are approaching the process, but even now it is not clear who what the leader of the Palestinian side has decided. There is an opportunity here, from an economic perspective too, and because an international coalition is coming together against Iran and its proxies, and because the people in Israel and the Palestinians themselves are tired and want to reach peace already," he said. "I hope the Palestinians will choose to advance peace."
Netanyahu reminded his audience that last year he discussed the deep economic crisis the country was in. This time, he pledged to implement a number of steps, including the building of roads, freeing up land for construction and "a revolution in the planning and construction committees."
"The combination of land, fast transportation and simplifying planning will allow the Israeli economy to grow," the premier said.
Netanyahu also focused on the creation of an international front against the Iranian nuclear program, which he said the government was working "tirelessly" to promote. He noted that last week's strongly worded decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran, made as a result of U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts, was "important progress, especially as Russia and China had signed on against the Islamic Republic.
"Efforts must continue to focus real pressure and real sanctions," Netanyahu said.