Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday urged the international community to pressure the Palestinian leadership to take positions in peace negotiations that would enable an accord with Israel. Prominent among these, he reiterated his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, saying there would be no peace without such recognition.
“Let’s see if those international players” who have been pressuring Israel to cut a deal, he said bitterly, in an apparent dig at US Secretary of State John Kerry among others, “will make clear to the Palestinians the consequences for them” of negotiations failing.
Referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statements in an interview to The New York Times on Monday, in which the Palestinian leader detailed his terms for peace with Israel but said he would refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation-state, Netanyahu said Abbas “knows that there will not be a deal without recognition of the nation-state.”
Speaking at the weekly Likud-Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting, Netanyahu said it was “absurd” to demand that Israel recognize a Palestinian state without reciprocation. He called on the international community to exert pressure on the Palestinians and “make clear to them the repercussions of not reaching an agreement with Israel.” Expressing dismay at international pressure on Israel for greater compromise — pressure backed up by warnings over boycotts and the isolation of Israel — Netanyahu demanded that the world press Abbas for compromise.
“No pressure” applied to Israel, he added, “will cause me to abandon the vital interests of the State of Israel, first and foremost the security of the citizens of Israel.”
Netanyahu spoke Sunday night with Kerry, who at the weekend had warned that Israel faced boycotts and delegitimization if the peace talks failed. Several leading right-wing politicians slammed Kerry over those remarks, calling them threats; the State Department clarified that the secretary had been warning of the dangers of failure, not issuing threats.
In a statement Monday about the call, Netanyahu said Kerry had made clear once again “that he opposes boycotts against Israel. This is an important clarification. It maintains the traditional American policy against the Arab boycott of Israel, in which the US both opposed and acted against such boycotts.”
Netanyahu added that, “We trust the United States will continue to actively oppose any boycotts against Israel. The peace process is delicate. There may be periods of misunderstandings and disagreements. The best way to clarify misunderstandings or express differences of opinion is by substantively discussing the issues and not by engaging in personal attacks.”
Netanyahu and Kerry also discussed the secretary’s “framework” proposals for a peace treaty, which he hopes will serve as the basis for peace talks continuing to the end of 2014 in search of an accord. The current talks are set to end in April.
Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat told Palestinian television on Monday that there was no point extending the talks past April, since Israel was not making, and would not make, the necessary decisions to enable a peace agreement. Persistent reports in recent weeks have suggested the PA intends to reject Kerry’s framework document, though these reports have not been confirmed. Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Friday night that Netanyahu and his senior colleagues intend to accept Kerry’s terms as a non-binding basis for further negotiations.
In the New York Times interview Monday, Abbas detailed his vision for a Palestinian state, which he said would be demilitarized with international peacekeepers on its borders. He said he would agree to an IDF presence in the future state for up to five years before a full pullout; an Israeli official promptly rejected this “artificial timeline.”
However, Abbas was adamant that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as Jewish, saying the notion was “out of the question.”
Erekat also rejected the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state over the weekend. Speaking at a Munich security conference, on a panel with his Israeli counterpart Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Erekat said the demand was unacceptable: “When you say ‘accept Israel as a Jewish state’ you are asking me to change my narrative,” he claimed, asserting that his ancestors lived in the region “5,500 years before [Biblical Israelite leader] Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown, Jericho.”
Haviv Rettig Gur and Spencer Ho contributed to this report.