Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he was willing to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “right now” to resume peace negotiations without preconditions.
During a meeting with Women Wage Peace, an organization formed after 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and which is comprised of Jewish and Arab women calling for coexistence, the prime minister said he was “prepared to go to Ramallah or anywhere else right now to meet and hold direct negotiations without preconditions.”
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since April 2014, and few efforts have been made publicly to restart negotiations. However, diplomats have indicated efforts will ramp up in the fall after the Iran nuclear deal is no longer dominating the world stage.
Netanyahu said Israel was interested in resuming peace talks right away. The solution to the conflict, he stressed, was “two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
He told the representatives of the group to tell Abbas if they meet with him “that I am willing to meet with him and (ask) if he is willing.”
Secret contacts between Netanyahu and Abbas have been taking place for several months, according to recent reports, including in The Times of Israel. Those reports have been denied by both the PMO and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Netanyahu has sought to reposition himself as a proponent of the two-state solution since his reelection, after his pre-election comments rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state led the US to threaten it would reassess it policies towards Israel.
US President Barack Obama has warned that Israel is losing credibility in an international community that doesn’t believe Israel is serious about a two-state solution.
The statement from Netanyahu comes as rumors have begun swirling that the 80-year-old Abbas plans to step down as president of the PA, after a decade on the job, amid frustration that all roads to Palestinian statehood appear blocked.
Currently, Abbas holds the three top positions in Palestinian politics — as president, head of the PLO and Fatah chief.
Two decades of talks brokered mainly by the United States have failed to produce a two-state solution. The latest peace push, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, fell short in April 2014 after nine months of tense negotiations, and the gaps between Israeli and Palestinian positions remain vast.
AP and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.