Netanyahu says he wants to resume talks with Palestinians ‘immediately’
UNITED NATIONS // Israel’s prime minister went to the United Nations on Thursday to call for a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians and to savage the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran.
“I am prepared to immediately, immediately resume direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians without any preconditions whatsoever,” Benjamin Netanyahu told the General Assembly.
It was not immediately clear, however, how serious the offer was, given Israel’s continuing programme of settlement building in the West Bank that Mr Netanyahu has refused to halt.
It was also reported on Thursday that court documents showed Israel was considering authorising “wildcat” settlement outposts in the West Bank near a village where a firebombing killed an 18-month-old Palestinian boy and his parents.
Wildcat outposts, often little more than a few caravans, are notorious for housing young Jewish hardliners.
Addressing Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas directly, he said: “President Abbas, I know it’s not easy. I know it’s hard.
“But we owe it to our peoples to try. To continue to try. Because together... if we actually sit down and try to resolve this conflict between us... we can do remarkable things for our people,” Mr Netanyahu added.
His remarks came as he is scheduled to speak with the US president Barack Obama at the White House in November – their first meeting after a deep row about the Iranian nuclear row.
Their frosty relations plummeted further during Mr Netanyahu’s re-election campaign, when he rejected a two-state solution for peace with the Palestinians.
With the peace process in deep freeze, there are growing fears that tensions like those flaring at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound could spark a broader Palestinian uprising.
Mr Abbas told the United Nations on Wednesday that Israel’s refusal to release Palestinian prisoners and stop settlement activity, meant that Palestinians could no longer feel bound by past agreements.
“They leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements, while Israel continuously violates them,” he said.
“We cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel and Israel must assume fully all its responsibilities as an occupying power,” Mr Abbas added, saying Palestinian patience “has come to an end.”
Mr Netanyahu used the first part of his speech to criticize the international community for reaching the nuclear deal with Iran.
During his speech, he fell silent for 45 seconds after slamming the UN General Assembly’s “deafening silence” in the face of repeated calls from Iran for the destruction of Israel.
“The response from this body,” he said, “has been absolutely nothing. Utter silence. Deafening silence.”
Israel will do whatever it takes to defend itself and will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, Mr Netanyahu said.
* Agence France-Presse
Published: October 2, 2015 04:00 AM