Resume negotiations without preconditions
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was committed to the full range of negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s pledge, made via satellite Monday night to the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference, was a nod to U.S. insistence that Palestinian statehood was still an option. The Israeli leader had said he would emphasize Palestinian economic development for now and place statehood on the back burner.
“We are prepared to resume negotiations without any preconditions,” Netanyahu said, describing a “triple track” approach covering political, security and economic considerations.
Netanyahu is due to meet with President Obama around May 18. His pledge Monday helps clear a disagreement that had threatened to raise U.S.-Israel tensions.
Netanyahu repeated Israel’s demand that Palestinians should recognize Israel’s Jewish character, but said that could be part of a “final peace settlement” and was not a precondition.
He said he also saw for the first time the prospect of an Israeli alliance with Arab states, to face down the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Obama is the second Israeli leader to address this year’s policy conference on Monday, President Shimon Peres used his speech to praise the leadership of U.S. President Barack Obama, saying it will “pave the way to both a regional agreement and meaningful bilateral negotiations.”
The Israeli president also praised the 2002 Saudi peace initiative.
“Israel wasn’t a partner to the wording of this initiative, therefore it doesn’t have to agree to every word,” he said. “Nevertheless, Israel respects the profound change and hopes it will be translated into action.”
Speaking of Obama, Peres said the new U.S. president was the center of a “tsunami of hope” that is “rolling across the globe.”
“I am convinced he has the capacity to turn the crises” afflicting the world “into opportunity,” said Peres, also praising Obama’s inaugural address for offering “an outstretched hand instead of a clenched fist.”
Peres met with Obama on Tuesday morning.