Netanyahu: Palestinian Authority, Not Building, Prevents Peace
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated at a Likud convention Wednesday night that it is the Palestinian Authority's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state - not construction in Judea and Samaria - which has hampered ongoing peace talks.
"I do not know if a peace agreement will come or not, but we will bring it to the Knesset and the people will decide whether the agreement is good," Netanyahu stated, warning that "We will not tolerate underhanded opportunism."
On that note, Netanyahu vowed not to let attempts from the international media, leftist groups, or religious leaders influence the direction of talks toward another building freeze in Judea and Samaria.
"We are not ceasing or slowing down efforts to build up our land and to develop it, nor [are we stopping] expansion efforts," he declared.
"They keep on telling us that the reason that we don't have peace is due to our construction efforts, and due to our presence in Judea and Samaria. This is wrong."
"The real reason is ongoing opposition to a Jewish state under any borders," he continued. "We have the right to have a state like any other nation - or perhaps even more than any other nation."
"This is our people. This is our country. This is our homeland. Agree to recognize a Jewish state," he urged. "The question is not why we insist on the recognition; it is on why they are too stubborn to recognize us. This is the root of the conflict upon which we are standing."
Regarding the current negotiations, the Prime Minister stated that he would accept an agreement only if Israel's security needs were met. "Without a security arrangement, an agreement would not hold for longer than two hours," he reasoned. "[There will be] no missiles, no suicide bombers [. . .] if we have to, we will do something again [like] Operation Pillar of Defense. Our enemies will understand very quickly what intimidation means."
"Israel will defend itself. That will be true in the event that peace, if attained, begins to unravel. After all, we are in the Middle East."
Relating to political pressures, Netanyahu stated, "I have to say that talks with the U.S. are conducted in good spirit, but there are attempts in the world, its various parts, pressed upon us here and there."
"It's not always easy to withstand the pressures, but we stand [. . .] On critical issues we do not compromise," he affirmed. "[I have] one goal - to ensure that the people of Israel [stay] in its historic homeland. This is what guides me."
Netanyahu's statements come on the same day as leading Roman Catholic cleric Fuad Twal launched a tirade against construction efforts in his annual Christmas address, claiming that Israel's presence in the region was "hampering" negotiations.
The European Union also stepped up pressure for a two-state solution this week, promising unprecedented aid packages for both parties in the event of a successful deal.
Israel 'in the eye of the storm'
Referring to Iran, Netanyahu stated, "We are in the eye of several storms. The hardest one taking place in our region [. . .] is due to the relentless attempts by Iran to become a country armed with nuclear weapons. They have publicly declared this in the past several days."
"They said we were not human beings but wild dogs. [Iran's] spokespeople said that we should disappear from the map," the Prime Minister continued. "Seventy years later, a world leader has arisen who says that it is destroying the Jews and the Jewish state, and is getting legitimacy."
"When someone threatens to destroy us we take this threat seriously and we will not let Iran develop nuclear weapons," he reiterated. He concluded with another warning to the Islamic Republic that Israel is determined to prevent them from having nuclear weapons capability.
Netanyahu's remarks follow similar remarks after a meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier Wednesday. "We believe that for the peace of the world, for the peace of the coming years and decades, Iran must be denied the capability – I stress the word – the capability to develop nuclear weapons," the Prime Minister stated then.
"It must fully comply with UN Security Council resolutions. It must end all enrichment, dismantle its centrifuges, eliminate all stockpiles of enriched uranium and dismantle its heavy water reactor in Arak so that it will not be able to produce plutonium."
"I think that this is something that the international community in its entirety must stand firm on," he concluded.