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Netanyahu to CNN: I’m Prepared to Discuss Future of Settlements

July 9, 2010
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Netanyahu was interviewed a day after a fence-mending meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, where the Israeli leader repeated a call for a restart of peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “And I use this forum today, on the 'Larry King' show, to say, President Abbas, meet me, and let's talk peace. We all have our grievances. We all have our, you know, our questions and things that we want answered. But the most important thing is to get together, sit down in a room and begin to negotiate peace. You cannot resolve a conflict, you cannot successfully complete a peace negotiation if you don't start it,” Netanyahu said.

“And I say let's start it right now, today, tomorrow, in Jerusalem, in Ramallah or anywhere else. I'm prepared to go to a warm city like New York or a cool city anywhere. Let's get on with the business of talking peace and concluding the peace agreement.”

The prime minister said, “The whole settlement issue was supposed to be discussed in the final peace—what are called final status peace negotiations, which means how to achieve a final peace. This is one of the issues we have to resolve.

Seven months ago, I did something quite extraordinary, that is, no other prime minister in Israel's history did this. I put on a temporary freeze of 10 months of new construction in the settlements in order to encourage the Palestinians to get into the peace talks. Seven months have passed by. They don't come in. They say, oh, we need now, another extension. And the answer is, right now, listen, we don't need any pretext and preconditions. Let's just get into the talks,” he said. “And one of the things we'll discuss, right away, is issues of settlements. And that's what I propose doing. In any case, what is important is to get down and talk. That's the important thing.”

Direct talks on Palestinian statehood have been suspended since late 2008. Obama's Middle East mediator, George Mitchell, has been shuttling between Netanyahu and Abbas in so-called proximity talks. The Palestinians insist on keeping Israel at arm's length until it makes certain things clear—namely, what size and shape of Palestinian state is Netanyahu prepared to consider, and will its Jordan Valley be free of Israeli troops?

Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu said on ABC television's “Good Morning America” that Israel was prepared to take additional steps to ease Palestinian movement in the West Bank to coax Abbas into direct peace talks. “The point is, we are prepared to do them. But what we want to see finally is one thing—we want President Abbas to grasp my hand, to shake it, sit down and negotiate a final settlement of peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said.

Addressing the Israeli-Arab conflict, Netanyahu told Larry King, “I think there's been a persistent refusal in many Arab quarters to recognize the state of Israel borders. I think the issue of borders is important. It's related to our security. But the issue of recognition, the basic recognition of the Jewish state that exists in the Middle East, that is the homeland of the Jewish people, that lives in peace and security with its neighbors, is something that is recognized by some [such as Egypt and Jordan].”

Asked by Larry King if he believes peace will come to the Middle East in his lifetime, Netanyahu said, “I think it's possible to achieve it, yes. Will we achieve it with the entire Middle East? That, I cannot say. Can we achieve it with the Palestinians? I say absolutely. I say that with conviction, because I think it's a question of a rightness for our people's perspective. There is already time. It's now. I think for many Palestinians, the time is now. And I'm prepared to make that effort.

“It requires a lot of courage. Maybe that's the quality that supersedes all others. Because if you don't have courage, everything else fails. But if you have it, then everything else is possible. We have the courage to make peace. And I hope—I fervently hope that our Palestinian neighbors have similar courage. With the help of the United States, I think it can be done, yeah. Absolutely,” the prime minister added.  

On Tuesday [July 6], Larry King announced that he is retiring from his nightly CNN show after 25 years. His last show will air this fall.

Posted on July 9, 2010

Source: (Excerpts of an article by Ynet, Ynetnews, July 8, 2010)

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