Netanyahu invites Abbas to Knesset ‘for sake of peace’

In front of French President Francoise Hollande, prime minister calls for two-state solution, Palestinian recognition of Jewish state

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in the Knesset Monday, next to Francois Hollande, Yuli Edelstein and Shimon Peres. (photo credit: Knesset Spokesperson)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in the Knesset Monday, next to Francois Hollande, Yuli Edelstein and Shimon Peres. (photo credit: Knesset Spokesperson)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Monday for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to visit the Knesset and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, for the sake of peace.

Netanyahu, speaking at a special session in honor of visiting French President Francois Hollande, said he would return the favor and speak in Ramallah in service of a two-state solution.

“Most of the Knesset members are unified: In order for the peace to be real, it must go in both directions. One cannot demand that we recognize a Palestinian national state without demanding of them to recognize a Jewish state,” the prime minister said.

“Mr. President, hours ago you met Mahmoud Abbas,” Netanyahu noted, addressing Hollande. “And I call on him today: Let’s break the stalemate. Come to the Knesset. I will come to Ramallah. Come onto this stage and recognize the historical truth.”

Hollande visited Ramallah earlier Monday, calling on Israel to cease all settlement construction, and praised Netanyahu for halting the Housing Ministry’s recently announced plans for further apartments in the West Bank.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich and Hollande spoke after Netanyahu in front of the Knesset plenum.

During his speech, Netanyahu also thanked Hollande for supporting Israel’s security, particularly in refusing to agree to a nuclear deal with Iran earlier in the month.

Addressing anti-Semitism in France, Netanyahu said, “Unfortunately, the Jewish community in France needs to deal with anti-Semitic attacks. and I know, my friend Francois, that you are working with determination and perseverance against this phenomenon.

“No attempt to scare us, or uproot us from here, will succeed. The State of Israel is strong. Am Israel Chai. The nation of Israel lives.”

In her remarks, Yachimovich praised ongoing diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. “There is no dispute between the coalition and the opposition that Iran cannot go nuclear. A fundamentalist regime’s nuclear capability endangers the peace of the entire world. The diplomatic path will always be preferable over war. In effective diplomacy, all options are on the table, and this is not a cliche.”

Nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers resume Wednesday in Geneva.

Yachimovich also indicated she would join the government if an agreement is reached with the Palestinians. “If there is a breakthrough in the talks with the Palestinians, we will be a safety net for the government. The Saudi initiative is an opening for a historic opportunity.”

Under heavy US pressure and following intense shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks in July after a three-year hiatus, agreeing to a nine-month timeline set to expire in March 2014. For the duration of the talks, the Palestinians agreed to suspend their efforts for international recognition and to not pursue Israel in the international legal arena. Israel committed to freeing 104 Palestinian prisoners who committed their crimes before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. The second phase of that program of releases was completed late last month.

The negotiations have hit some hurdles so far, including an uptick in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians, with the latest incident just last week when a 16-year-old Palestinian stabbed an 18-year-old IDF soldier to death while the latter was sleeping on a bus. Israel has also made continued announcements of planned construction in the settlements, prompting frequent threats by Palestinian negotiators to quit the talks.

A Palestinian Authority official on Monday told Israel Radio that talks with Israel could resume as early as this week.

The Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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