Jerusalem – “I support the idea of regional peace that is being led by Obama,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday in his long-anticipated foreign policy address at Bar-Ilan University.
“Peace has always been our objective,” Netanyahu began. “Our prophets always envisioned peace; we bless each other with Shalom; our prayers end in peace.”
The prime minister said that he was willing to meet any Arab leader anywhere.
“I turn to Arab leaders: Let’s make peace, I am ready,” Netahyahu said. “I am willing to go to Damascus, Riyadh, Beirut – to meet anytime and anywhere.”
Netanyahu also warned of the threat emanating from Iran, saying, “The biggest threat to Israel, and the middle east and all of humanity is the meeting between radical Islamism and nuclear weaponry.”
Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to “begin peace talks immediately, and without preconditions.”
Citing the “heavy toll” the ongoing conflict has taken, mentioning the death of his brother, Yonatan, and saying, “I don’t want war. Nobody in Israel wants war.”
“If the advantages of peace are so clear, we must ask – why is peace still far? What is perpetuating the conflict for over 60 years? We must reach the root of the struggle,” Netanyahu continued.
“Let me use the most simple words – the root of the struggle is the refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. The initial Arab refusal was to a Jewish state in any location, before Israeli presence in the West Bank,” the prime minister said.
“The closer we get to an agreement with the Palestinians, the further it is rejected,” he continued. “We tried a withdraw with an agreement, without one, a partial withdraw and offered a near-complete withdraw. We uprooted Jewish settlers from their homes, and received a barrage of missiles in return.”
“Sadly, even the Palestinian moderates won’t say the most simple statement – Israel is the Jewish national state, and will remain such.
“To achieve peace, courage and honesty are necessary from both sides. The Palestinians must say – ‘enough with this conflict. We recognize Israel’s right to exist, and want to live by their side.’
“A public Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state is a precondition for regional peace,” Netanyahu said.
“In the heart of Israel there lives a large group of Palestinians,” the prime minister continued, noting his will to see a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside Israel.
“For peace,” he said, “we must ensure that Palestinians have no weapons and the opportunity to create pacts with hostile forces.
“We ask that the US commit that in the end-deal the Palestinian territory will be demilitarized. Without that, sooner or later, we will have another Hamastan. And Israel can’t agree to that.”
“I told Obama that if we agree on essence, the semantics won’t matter,” Netanyahu added.
“If we receive a commitment to Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state and a demilitarized Palestinian state, we can reach a final agreement.”
Netanyahu continued to stress that Jerusalem would remain a united Jewish state.
“There is no intention in the meanwhile to create new settlements or expand existent towns, while not preventing the natural needs of settlers, who are not enemies,” he said of the settlements.
“Palestinians must decree between the way of peace and that of Hamas. Israel won’t negotiate with a group that calls for Israel’s destruction. Hamas won’t even let the Red Cross visit our captive soldier Gilad Schalit,” Netanyahu added.