Photo: Marc Israel SellemPrime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he did not know if he could make peace with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview with Channel 2, aired in full on Saturday night.
"When Abu Mazen (Abbas) embraces Hamas and calls for reconciliation with Hamas, allows for Hamas demonstrations [in the West Bank] that call for Israel's destruction, I ask myself is he a partner for peace."
“You have to ask a simple question, why does Abu Mazen serially refuse, for four years, to enter negotiations? Why does he place pre-conditions on the start of those talks?” Netanyahu asked,
“I have conditions for concluding the talks, but not for starting them,” he said.
The Western Wall is not occupied territory, Netanyahu said, as he promised to continue to buck the international community to defend Israel’s right to build in its ancient capital of Jerusalem, including in eastern section over the pre-1967 lines.
“I am saying this in the clearest way possible, the Western Wall is not occupied territory, and I do not care what the United Nation says [on this matter]," Netanyahu told Channel 2.
He said he just stood near the Tower of David in the Old City with foreign ambassadors.
“I said to them, would you accept that in you could not build in your capitals?” Netanyahu recalled.
““My fundamental position is that we live in a Jewish nation, Jerusalem became that nation's capital over 3,000 years ago,” Netanyahu said.
He added, “We will build in Jerusalem because it’s our right.”
Had the Jewish people bowed to international pressure, the state of Israel would not have been created, the Six-Day War would not have been fought, the Iraqi reactor would not have been bombed and Petah Tikva and Kfar Saba would never have been built, Netanyahu told Channel 1.
He rejected charges that he approved the new homes, including 1,048 in West Bank settlements, to curry favor with right wing voters.
But, he said, that massive electoral support for his party would help him defend Israel both diplomatically and militarily.
"On election day Israeli citizens will send a message," he continued, "not only domestically but also to the international community,” Netanyahu said.
"Do you know who will be paying attention to the election results?" Netanyahu added, "[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, [and Hamas chief Khaled] Mashaal, they'll wait for polls to close and for results to be publicized. And they'll want to know if the prime minister was strengthened or weakened."
Still, he told Channel 2, when asked why he suddenly began building, “What happened is not the elections. What happened is that the Palestinians appealed to the UN - they just ripped apart all their agreements with us. If they act unilaterally, we will not sit idly by. "
Netanyahu said he supported a two-solution, but that it had to be brought about in such a way that would not place Iran in the West Bank.
But in spite of Netanyahu’s words, the international community has leveled the brunt of its public criticism on Israel, stating that building in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem was harming any possibility of renewed talks.
The European Union and Russia on Friday denounced Israeli actions.
"The European Union and the Russian Federation are deeply dismayed by and strongly oppose Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and in particular plans to develop the E1 area," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
"The EU and the Russian Federation underline the urgency of renewed, structured and substantial peace efforts in 2013," said the joint statement after an EU-Russia summit in Brussels.
The EU and Russia, which together with the United States and the United Nations make up the Quartet of Middle East mediators, said the settlements were illegal under international law and were an obstacle to peace.
"The EU and the Russian Federation will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties," they said.
It was time to take "bold and concrete steps towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis", they said, calling for "direct and substantial negotiations without preconditions."
The EU and Russia called for the unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip, and urged Israel to avoid any step that would undermine the financial situation of the Palestinian Authority.
They urged the Palestinian leadership to use Palestine's new UN status constructively and avoid steps that would deepen lack of trust and lead further away from a negotiated solution.
Jpost staff and Reuters contributed to this report