Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood bid was simply a way to detour peace negotiations.
Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press just two days after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ UN speech and Netanyahu’s own response speech, the Prime Minister said, “The Palestinians want a state, but they have to give peace in return. What they’re trying to do in the United Nations is to get a state without giving Israel peace or giving Israel peace and security…That should not succeed. But what should succeed is for them to actually sit down and negotiate with us to get two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”
Netanyahu added that the PA’s leadership is “trying to get away without negotiating. They’re trying to get a state to continue the conflict with Israel rather than to end it. They’re trying to basically detour around peace negotiations by going to the UN and have the automatic majority in the UN General Assembly give them, give them a state. That’s unfortunate.”
Netanyahu rejected the host’s suggestion that Israel is isolated following the Arab Spring.
“We’re not isolated in this country, which happens to be the strongest country on earth,” he said. “I walked yesterday in Central Park. You know, people met me. Jewish-Americans, but many non-Jewish-Americans and they said, ‘Keep the faith. We’re strong. Be strong. We’re with you.’”
“Many, many countries are coming to realize that our demand that we have direct negotiations and that the Palestinians finally recognize a Jewish state and give this tiny country Israel the security requirements it needs, people are getting around to that,” added Netanyahu.
Responding to a question about whether President Barack Obama is as good a friend of Israel as President George W. Bush was, Netanyahu said: “Israel enjoys tremendous bipartisan support. This is what, I think, is one of the great blessings that Israel has in the, in the 21st century. And I think that bipartisan support is expressed by any person who happens to be the president of the United States, including President Obama. Every one of the U.S. presidents represents and acts on the tremendous innate friendship of the American people to Israel.”
Netanyahu expressed his disappointment at the fact that Abbas refused to recognize the Jewish right to the land of Israel and his claim that Israel has been ‘occupying’ Palestinian territory for 63 years.
“Why can’t you recognize our history?” he said. “Why can’t you recognize the Jewish connection to the Jewish land? And why can’t we work out--recognize the past, seize the future? And I'm willing to do that.”
Finally, Netanyahu responded to former President Bill Clinton’s remarks last week, who was critical of Netanyahu and said that his government has moved away from the consensus for peace, making a final agreement more difficult.
“I regretfully and respectfully disagree with former President Clinton,” Netanyahu said. “He should know more than anyone else that in the peace conference that he presided in Camp David in 2000 with Arafat and former Prime Minister Barak, it was the Palestinian side who walked away from his own parameters. And in 2008, President Bush can tell you how the Palestinian side, led by President Abbas walked away, just would not close in on another prime minister’s suggestions. And in the two and a half years since then, anybody conversant with the facts knows that I made these offers again and again, called for two states for two peoples, froze the settlements. Nobody did that ever for nearly a year. They didn’t come, they don't want to come, and they go around to the UN.”
“We could arrive in an arrangement that takes care of Israel’s security needs and gives the Palestinians a life of dignity for themselves, but they have to have leaders who are prepared to do it,” he added. “And you know what, I hope they do, not only for our sake, for their sake, too.”