News / Middle East

    Netanyahu: Direct Talks Best Way to Revive Mideast Peace Process

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    • Interview with David Harris from American Jewish Committee

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would discuss starting direct talks with the Palestinians during a meeting with President Barack Obama next week.

    Speaking after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel wanted to move as speedily as possible toward direct talks with the Palestinians.  He said that was the best way to resolve bilateral problems and revive the stalled peace process.

    Listen to Susan Yackee's interview with David Harris from American Jewish Committee:

    So far, the Palestinians and Israelis have agreed only to indirect talks, which began this month.  But direct talks may receive a boost from President Barack Obama, who will be holding separate meetings with Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington.

    Mr. Netanyahu was also in Paris to mark Israel's official entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, which includes some of the world's richest nations.

    At a press conference at the OECD, Mr. Netanyahu said economic prosperity also enhances peace prospects.

    "It's very critical for us, and during this time -- especially during this time -- that we have continued growth in our own country and in the region, because I think it's an important bullwark to peace," he said.  "The economic peace that we're seeking to fashion with our Palestinian neighbors can help sustain the political peace and can actually facilitate it in many ways -- and actually keep it, once it's formally achieved," said Netanyahu.

    Separately, Mr. Abbas said he hoped that indirect talks with the Israelis would produce results in the coming months.

    Israel's membership to the OECD amounts to a huge success for the Jewish state, which has waged a 16-year campaign for entry. Other new members included Estonia, Chile and Slovenia.

    But Mr. Netanyahu's visit to France is controversial.  Mr. Sarkozy's government is among the most pro-Israel in recent years, but a growing number of French are critical of Mr. Netanyahu's policy toward the Palestinians.  That includes French Jewish intellectuals.

    A new online petition, called the European Jewish Call for Reason, has gathered 6,000 signatures.  It criticizes the Netanyahu government's policy on building settlements in the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

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