But, declaring that Israel must “find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said: “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace.” He said he recognizes “that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”
Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the failure to end the long-running conflict so far, saying they have been “unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.” He challenged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state,’ ” just as he said he had done in saying he would accept a Palestinian state.
In the West Bank, a spokesman for Abbas said there was “nothing new” in the speech, which he cast as a rebuff to President Obama.
“On the contrary, he [Netanyahu] added more obstacles,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a telephone interview. “It was a clear message to President Obama, refusing all his ideas, and a message to everybody that he is not ready for peace.” Abu Rudeineh added: “He’s trying to negotiate alone in front of the Congress and conclude an agreement without sitting at the table and without accepting the parameters of Obama. These preconditions are not going to lead to any peace moves.”
Another Abbas aide said Netanyahu’s terms amount to a “declaration of war” on the Palestinians, the Associated Press reported.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told the Arabic satellite channel al-Jazeera that Netanyahu chose “dictation over negotiation.” The speech showed that “we have no partner in Israel for peacemaking,” Erekat said. Other Palestinian officials said Netanyahu’s conditions made genuine peace talks impossible.
In Israel, commentators also said that the speech broke little new ground. Netanyahu reiterated points he made in an address to the Israeli parliament last week, in which he implied flexibility on territory while outlining positions that Palestinian leaders have rejected outright.
With Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state, “the Israeli people will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise,” Netanyahu said. “I will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise.”