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Netanyahu, Shalom call for Palestinians to restart peace talks without preconditions

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who will head Israel’s delegation in any future peace negotiations, both called yesterday for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to re-start peace talks without preconditions.

Netanyahu said at a press conference yesterday with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, “I think we have to get back to direct negotiations without preconditions,” adding “I want you to know that we are committed to a solution of two states for two peoples. We are committed to negotiations.” Netanyahu made similar public declarations recently alongside both Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. Last month, Netanyahu’s new government announced that it would “strive to reach a peace agreement” as part of its agreed policy guidelines.

Netanyahu contrasted his repeated statements with the Palestinian position, saying “I think it’s important that the international community stop giving the Palestinians a free pass.” He explained, “It’s about time the focus was placed on the Palestinians and they should be told: ‘Are you committed to a solution of two states for two peoples? Are you committed to open-ended negotiations, that is, without preconditions? Are you committed to peace?” Netanyahu said that the Palestinians “ran away” from negotiations on several past occasions and then set a “perfect trap” to denigrate Israel on the premise that no talks are possible.

Meanwhile, Shalom told the Herzliya Conference yesterday, “If the Palestinians will be serious and be prepared to sit down to real negotiations, I pledge to them that they will find in Israel a real partner.” He added, “I call on the Palestinians to renew negotiations without preconditions and the sooner the better.” Shalom also called for a regional component to talks.

A report published yesterday by the Rand Corporation concluded that a peace agreement would see Israel’s GDP grow by 5 per cent and the Palestinian economy by 50 per cent by 2024. For Israel, it would mean a £78 billion boost.