Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he was willing to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “any day,” after the PA leader called for a meeting during an interview last week on Israeli television.
Netanyahu also stressed that he had made the offer before, and was standing by his invitation.
“I’m inviting him again. I’ve cleared my schedule this week. Any day he can come, I’ll be here,” Netanyahu told journalists in Jerusalem ahead of a meeting with visiting Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek.
Abbas told Channel 2’s “Uvda” program last week that he was willing to meet the prime minister to reach a peace agreement.
I heard President Abbas say that if I invite him to meet, he'll come. So I'm inviting him. I've cleared my schedule.https://t.co/jXEdWR8n3n
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) April 4, 2016
“I still extend a hand to Mr. Netanyahu because I believe in peace. I believe that the people of Israel want peace and that the Palestinian people want peace,” Abbas said.
Abbas called Netanyahu “the partner” for peace, and called on the Israeli premier to meet with him “at any time.”
But Netanyahu said Monday that before peace talks, the first thing the two needed to discuss was ending Palestinian incitement against Israelis.
“My door is always open for those who want to pursue peace with Israel,” the prime minister said.
Israel has accused Abbas of failing to condemn the wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces that erupted in mid-September, and says his PA hierarchy presides over incitement to violence against Israel.
The attacks, mostly stabbings but also shootings and car-ramming assaults, have killed 29 Israelis and four non-Israelis. Over the same time, at least 188 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire. Israel says most were attackers, and the rest died in clashes with security forces.
Abbas told Channel 2 news that if it were not for his forces, the violence would be much bloodier now. He denied that he is encouraging Palestinian youth to stab Israelis and said that Israelis are unaware of his security forces’ efforts to prevent stabbings.
Netanyhau’s comments came hours after President Reuven Rivlin made similar statements saying he was willing to meet Abbas.
“We need to find a way to build trust between us,” he says. “I am ready to meet with [Abbas] with whatever coordination with the Israeli government of course.”
Rivlin, also speaking alongside Zaorálek, said he was somewhat heartened by Abbas’s interview but that the PA leader needed to back up his words by distancing himself from fundamentalists like the Hamas group who would prefer to see a temporary agreement that allows for the future destruction of Israel.