WASHINGTON (JTA) — Diaspora Jews should join Arabs in investing in the Palestinian economy, Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Jewish leaders.
The Israeli prime minister listed prosperity for the Palestinians among six conditions for lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace in a call Tuesday with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Netanyahu outlined steps he was taking to facilitate commerce in the West Bank and spur the Palestinian economy, which he said could flourish with the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority and with the help of Jews and Arabs overseas.
Netanyahu’s other conditions for peace were Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; resolving the Palestinian refugee issue outside Israel’s borders; a peace treaty that unequivocally ends the conflict; effective demilitarization of the Palestinian state, and arrangements for the international community, led by the United States, to guarantee the peace.
Netanyahu said demilitarization would include Israeli control of air space, Palestinian forces limited to light arms, and no military pacts with other countries.
The Israeli prime minister said he was skeptical of Syria’s intentions to make peace, given its continued relationship with Iran and with terrorist groups. Netanyahu added, however, that he is ready for an unconditional return to peace talks and would not make an end to Syrian support for groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah a precondition.
Netanyahu also emphasized that the Obama administration is not linking the containment of Iran to progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace. President Obama "never" conditioned cooperation with Israel on strategies to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear device to U.S. efforts to advance the peace process, he said.
But Netanyahu did say that he perceived causal links between the two issues that go both ways: A nuclear Iran would greatly enhance its spoiler status when it comes to peacemaking, and achieving peace with the Palestinians would score a success for moderates in the region who hope to tamp down Iranian influence.