JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Mahmoud Abbas to meet with him immediately to discuss peace.
"There is no reason that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and I should not meet immediately, anywhere in this country, in order to advance the political process," Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
Abbas, in a letter sent over the weekend to President Obama, said he would not give up any part of the West Bank and demanded a peace agreement based on the June 1967 borders, while also asking the administration to pressure Israel to solve all permanent agreement issues and stressing that settlements were an obstacle to peace, Ynet reported.
Meanwhile, in a weekend interview with the Egyptian newspaper Oktober, Abbas said the Palestinians "demand a territorial continuity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and will not give up the right of return."
The Cabinet held its meeting in Beersheba, where Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat met in 1979 prior to signing a peace treaty between their countries.
It was the first time any Cabinet has met in the southern Israeli city, and was held to show the government’s commitment to developing the region’s economy.
Also Sunday, speaking at a state ceremony to mark the 105th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, Netanyahu said Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is key to making peace — driving home the point he made during last month’s Bar Ilan policy speech.
"The key to peace lies in explicit and unequivocal recognition of Israel as the Jewish state on the part of the Palestinians," Netanyahu said during the ceremony at the father of political Zionism’s burial place at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. "They must once and for all give up the demand to resettle inside of Israel the descendants of the refugees.
"I look forward to the day when the moderate leaders of the Palestinians will stand in front of their people and clearly state, ‘ We have had enough of this conflict; we recognize Israel as Jewish; we will live alongside you in true peace.’ "