Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to “give peace a chance.”
Speaking at a Knesset session called by the opposition and which dealt with the peace process, Netanyahu said that Abbas should give up his preconditions and come to the negotiating table.
"We are in favor of starting negotiations immediately without preconditions,” Netanyahu said.
“Give peace a chance,” he said in English, directly addressing Abbas.
"In my three terms as Prime Minister I made quite a few tough decisions, and I'm ready to make tough decisions now as well, but not ones that endanger the security of the State of Israel,” said Netanyahu, who added, “We’re not the only ones who will have to make difficult decisions - the Palestinians will have to do so as well. I'm not afraid to start the negotiations right here and now - and without preconditions,” he stated.
"I invited Abbas when I spoke at the UN, I invited him in Washington, I invited him at the Knesset plenum,” said the Prime Minister. “We need to sit down, make our various demands and try to reach real peace. This is my goal, and I hope it will also be the goal of Palestinian leaders as well.”
Opposition leader MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor), who initiated the discussion, warned that without talking with the PA, Netanyahu was leading Israel towards becoming a binational state.
"I urge you, Prime Minister," she said. "The meaning of Zionism is a Jewish and democratic state. By idling and not taking an initiative, the government is leading us to the actual realization of this scenario. It is impossible to call yourself the nationalist camp when you are headed towards a binational state. We are allowed to be skeptical, but we must make a permanent arrangement one of our goals."
The discussion at the Knesset comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushes the sides to resume peace talks. He is expected to return in Israel and the PA on June 13-15, for what will be his fifth visit to the region since taking office in February.
The peace talks between Israel and the PA broke down in 2010, because Abbas refused to negotiate with Israel even though it agreed to his precondition and froze construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem for 10 months.
Instead, he has continued to impose preconditions on talks with Israel, including a demand that Israel release terrorists who were jailed before 1993, freeze construction for a second time and even present a map of the future Palestinian state before any negotiations take place.
On Tuesday, Abbas placed the responsibility for the stalled peace talks on Israel, claiming that the "ball is in Israel's court".
"I believe the ball is now in Israel's court. The Palestinian demands are clear, and the Israelis know them as do the Americans, so Israel must now accept them in order to begin negotiations," said Abbas.
A day earlier, Kerry warned that if efforts to renew peace talk fail now, they may never get another chance.
"We are running out of time. We're running out of possibilities... If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance," Kerry said at the American Jewish Committee 2013 Global Forum in Washington, D.C.
"We can't let the disappointments of the past hold the future prisoner. We can't let the absence of peace become a self-fulfilling prophecy," the top U.S. diplomat urged in one of his most passionate speeches to date on the search for peace.
"The absence of peace becomes perpetual conflict," he stressed, urging the Jewish forum to reflect on what will happen if his peace bid does not work.