Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he believes his 94-seat super-coalition is a historic opportunity – and mandate – for peace.
"On the peace process," Netanyahu told attendees at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv. "We are 94 Members of Knesset. This is an opportunity to advance the peace process, an opportunity which may not repeat itself, in my opinion, in the next ten years."
"Waiting and inaction lead to the mere illusion of quiet. We're on borrowed time," Netanyahu warned. "We will get stuck in a corner, or we'll arrive at a wall, and we'll pay the price… some people today prefer to settle in a coma…"
Netanyahu explained his clear departure from the Likud's traditional dedication to greater Israel in favor of the so-called two-state solution as a means of avoiding the creation of a binational state.
"A peace agreement with the Palestinians is necessary first and foremost to prevent a bi-national state," he said. "It is preferable to live in peace. Peace is better than any other situation, but we need to prevent a bi-national state, as well as strengthen the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country."
Netanyahu also invoked his Bar Ilan speech, in which he indicated a willingness to cede most of Judea and Samaria while retaining the major Jewish settlement blocs, and control of the Jordan Valley. It is unclear, however, if Netanyahu would annex the Jordan Valley, or simply maintain a military presence there.
"We do not want to rule over the Palestinians, nor do we want the Palestinians to be citizens of the State of Israel," he said. "That is why three times – in my speech at Bar Ilan, in my speech in the Knesset and later in my speech at the American Congress – I declared that I support and welcome peace between two nation-states – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people."
"I believe there is very broad support among the people for such a peace agreement," he repeated, adding "One based on mutual respect and security for Israel. By security, I mean substantive security arrangements on the ground that provide a response to the ongoing threats and any new threats that are introduced.
Netanyahu also sought to shift the onus for negotiations to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has used a laundry list of preconditions as a fait accompli to forestall talks and pursue a unilateral track.
"I believe that the unity government under my leadership is an expression of this broad support, and I call again on Mahmoud Abbas not to miss this unique opportunity and give peace a chance," Netanyahu said.
"Let me clarify – I have not set any conditions to enter into negotiations," he said, repeating his willingness to begin negotiations immediately. "Certainly I will have conditions to conclude negotiations, and so will Mahmoud Abbas. This is natural and it is the reason we conduct negotiations. But this is why I say to Abbas – don't miss out on this opportunity to extend your hand in peace."
"If I had to say it another way," Netanyahu said, quoting the 1969 John Lennon single, "I would say, 'President Abbas, all we are saying is 'give peace a chance.'"
"This is a real opportunity. It will not necessarily be repeated in general or political history, but it exists now and peace negotiations need two sides. One side is ready and willing. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in the clear interest of both peoples."
Critics of Netanyahu's push to pursue peace say he has failed to adjust to the clear unilateral paradigm adopted by senior PLO officials - and that his government has not shifted its strategic posture to secure Israel's interests as a result.
Abbas continues to demand Israel accept the indefensible pre-1967 lines as final borders, release all Arab terrorists from its jails, and halt construction for a second time before talks begin.
The previous 10-month construction freeze in the 'disputed territories' by Israel was not only rebuffed, but met with Abbas failed unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations last September.
They did not define "popular resistance," regional observers note Article 9 of the PLO charter continues to assert, "Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”
It also maintains “Palestine” is defined by the British Mandate and is “indivisible” – thus leaving no room for Israel to exist at all. PLO officials have refused to amend their charter numerous times since the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at the same conference, "If it is impossible to reach an agreement with the Palestinian [Authority Arabs], we should consider an interim arrangement, or even a unilateral disengagement."