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Netanyahu Calls Peace With Palestinians Difficult, But Possible

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians is difficult, but possible, following Washington's announcement Friday that Israel and the Palestinians will start direct peace negotiations for the first time in 20 months.

It was the first time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke publicly about the upcoming peace negotiations since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Israel and the Palestinians will resume face-to-face talks September 2.

Heading into a Cabinet meeting, Mr. Netanyahu laid out the Israeli leadership's goals for the talks. He said ensuring Israel's security is at the top of the list for him and that means negotiating for the creation of Palestinian state that will not have the ability to threaten Israel.

He said he is talking about a peace agreement between Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state. He said security, the Palestinians' recognition of the state of Israel as the state for the Jewish people, and the end of the conflict are what he referred to as the first three layers that can promise a real peace agreement, one that can last for many generations to come.

Well before the talks begin, there are plenty of signs of the difficulties to come.

The Palestinians rejected Mr. Netanyahu's remarks, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat saying the comments amounted to dictation, not negotiation. He said if Mr. Netanyahu wants negotiations, he knows that these conditions - in his words - would not stand.

The Palestinians have in the past been unwilling to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. They believe that by doing so, they would give up the rights of millions of Arabs who live inside Israel, and also relinquish what they see as the right of Palestinian refugees to return to lands they left during the conflict surrounding the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.