(JNS.org) During a meeting with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials on Wednesday, Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he still backs the principles of his famous
2009 Bar Ilan University address, including the establishment of a Palestinian
state that recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t about territory, but rather the very existence of a Jewish state,” Netanyahu said, Israel Hayom reported.
During the 2009 speech, Netanyahu for the first time publicly declared his willingness to accept “a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”
Speaking about U.S. efforts to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Netanyahu said Israel has no preconditions for renewing talks with the Palestinians. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, has demanded a freeze in Israeli construction beyond the “Green Line,” the 1949 armistice line that served as a de facto border for Israel before its victory in the 1967 Six Day War, as a precondition for the restart of peace negotiations. In November 2009, Netanyahu implemented a 10-month Israeli construction freeze, which did not lead to a peace agreement.
“The root of the conflict isn’t territorial,” Netanyahu reiterated. “It began long before 1967. You saw what happened when we left Gaza [in 2005]. We evacuated every settlement and what did we get? Missiles. The unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict. If we reach a peace agreement, I want to know that the conflict won't continue, that there won't be more Palestinian demands later.”
On Thursday, in a meeting with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, Netanyahu said any peace deal with the Palestinians would be put to a popular referendum among Israelis. Burkhalter invited Netanyahu to Switzerland, which holds frequent referendums, to see how the country runs its popular polls. Polls in Israel consistently show that a majority of Israelis would support a peace deal based on a two-state solution if it contained ironclad security guarantees.