News / Middle East

Israeli PM Calls For Direct Talks With Palestinians Without Delay

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he is willing to take political risks, but not security ones, to work out a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Speaking in New York City, Mr. Netanyahu said direct talks should begin between the two sides without delay.

Repeatedly driving home the point that he is ready to take steps to make peace with the Palestinians, Mr.Netanyahu said he did not come back a second time as Israel's prime minister to do nothing.

"You come back to do something," said  Benjamin Netanyahu. "I'm prepared to do something. I'm prepared to take risks. I won't take risks with our security, but I'm willing to take political risks. So does President Mahmoud Abbas. He must be prepared to take these risks. And I know President Obama is ready to assist us in this."

Mr. Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday. The Israeli leader said then he would like to see direct talks start between the two sides within the next few weeks.On Thursday, he reiterated that desire to the audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

"We should just stop all the delays, stop all the preconditions, stop all the pretexts, and start now," said Mr. Netanyahu. "Next week. In two weeks. Get the talks going. Because only if we start them can we complete them."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Ethiopia on Wednesday, where he said he was hoping for positive news from the Israeli side.

"All the time we reiterated our position that we are ready to go for direct talks if we receive any signals from the Israeli side on two issues: the borders and the security," said President Abbas. "We presented our proposals to both the Americans and the Israelis and we are waiting for the Israeli impression and the reaction."

Another main sticking point to resuming direct talks has been the issue of Israeli settlements. Last year, Mr. Netanyahu declared a temporary suspension of new building in the West Bank. On Thursday he appeared to say he would not extend that moratorium.

"I actually did this temporary freeze as an inducement to enter the talks," he said. "Now seven months into this ten-month moratorium, the Palestinians have not yet come in, but they already argue that you have to extend that gesture. I think the right thing to do is just get into the talks; this is how we will resolve this issue of settlements."

Outside the Council on Foreign Relations about 200 demonstrators gathered from both the pro-and anti-Netanyahu camp.

One group held up signs welcoming the Israeli leader to New York. On the other side of the street, the opposition, many of them identifying themselves as American Jews, said they were angry about Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and did not think Mr. Netanyahu would follow through on his promises for peace.

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