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Netanyahu in UK says he is ready for peace talks right now

Prime minister meets with his counterpart David Cameron, warns Middle East is crumbling under Islamic extremism

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron, at 10 Downing Street, on September 10, 2015. (Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron, at 10 Downing Street, on September 10, 2015. (Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday told his UK counterpart that he is ready for peace talks with the Palestinians, without preconditions, and he is ready to start talking immediately.

At a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the British leader’s office on Downing Street, Netanyahu also said he blamed the deteriorating situation in the Middle East on a clash between extremist elements of Sunni and Shia Islam being driven by the Islamic State and Iran.

“I want to say here in 10 Downing Street, and reaffirm again, that I am ready to resume direct negotiations with the Palestinians with no conditions whatsoever to enter negotiations, and I’m willing to do so immediately,” Netanyahu said.

Later in the day he met with British lawmakers and told them that he’s “willing right now, without any preconditions, any preconditions whatsoever, to sit down with President Abbas and negotiate this peace.”

“I’m willing to go to Ramallah, yes, a nightmare for my security people. I often do that when I stop at falafel stands. They’re going to have to deal with it. Okay? Or President Abbas can come to Jerusalem, or for God’s sake, we can take up some of these suggestions for retreats in Sicily or fjords in Norway. Whatever. Anytime, anywhere, now, without preconditions.”

In recent weeks Netanyahu repeatedly said he is prepared to restart talks, which have been moribund since April 2014. Palestinian officials have dismissed the calls as mere spin by the Israeli leader.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside 10 Downing Street ahead of a meeting in London, September 10, 2015. (AFP/LEON NEAL)
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, left, greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside 10 Downing Street ahead of a meeting in London, September 10, 2015. (AFP/LEON NEAL)

Netanyahu also repeated his call to contribute to efforts to fight jihadists in the region.

“The Middle East is disintegrating under the twin forces of militant Islam: the militant Sunnis led by ISIS [the Islamic State group] and the militant Shiites led by Iran,” Netanyahu warned Cameron. “I believe that we can cooperate in practical ways to roll back the tide of militant Islam both in the Middle East and in Africa altogether.”

Netanyahu’s visit came days after British officials said they carried out a drone strike in Syria for the first time, killing three Islamic State fighters, include two Britons.

The Israeli prime minister told Cameron he hoped for more partnership between Israel and the UK in the area of technology.

“Britain and Israel are two great centers of technology. Israel is a global hub of innovation, especially in cyber security. And I think that if we pull our resources together we can offer a better future and great prosperity,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara meet with leaders of Jewish organizations in the United Kingdom in London on September 9, 2015. (Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara meet with leaders of Jewish organizations in the United Kingdom in London on September 9, 2015. (Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Netanyahu also held a meeting with Jewish leaders after landing in London for the three-day state visit.

Earlier this week, prominent far-left activists and union leaders in Britain, along with three members of Parliament, called for the disinvitation of Netanyahu and urged the British government to impose immediate sanctions on Israel.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators shout slogans as they gather to a protest outside the gates of Downing Street in London on September 9, 2015 opposing a planned visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators shout slogans as they gather to a protest outside the gates of Downing Street in London on September 9, 2015 opposing a planned visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS)

On Wednesday hundreds attended a demonstration against the Israeli leader while a petition on the UK Parliament’s website calling for Netanyahu’s arrest during his visit – something not currently possible under British law – has garnered well over 100,000 signatures. The petition claims “over 2,000 civilians” were killed by Israel in the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, apparently conflating the overall Palestinian death toll with the civilian one.

In its response to the Parliament website petition, the British government defended Israel’s right to fight Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers, and said Netanyahu could not be arrested under the law.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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