JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said direct peace talks with the Palestinians can end in success if Israel is not the only side making concessions.
"I know that there is a considerable skepticism after 17 years having passed since the beginning of the Oslo process. It is possible to understand why this doubtfulness exists. We are seeking to surprise the critics and the skeptics, but in order to do this we need a real partner on the Palestinian side," Netanyahu said Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting. "If we discover that we have a real partner on the Palestinian side, sincere and serious in negotiations, negotiations which will require both sides to take necessary measures, not only the Israeli side but also the Palestinian side, if we discover we have such a partner, we will be able to shortly reach a historic peace agreement between the two peoples."
The United States invited Israel and the Palestinians to relaunch direct peace talks Sept. 2 in Washington. Both sides have reportedly agreed to attend. Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, joined by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah, have been invited to dine Sept. 1 with President Obama. Prior to the dinner, Obama will meet with each leader separately. The next day, Netanyahu, Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will meet at the State Department to launch talks.
Netanyahu said Sunday that a future agreement must include durable security arrangements for Israel; recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, including a solution for the Palestinians’ demand of a right of return and the Palestinian refugee problem, and a demilitarized Palestinian state.
On Saturday night, The Jerusalem Post reported that an official in the prime minister’s office said Netanyahu will take any accord he reaches with the Palestinians to the Knesset and "to the people," either in a national referendum or new elections.
Both Clinton and U.S. special envoy George Mitchell said that the negotiations should lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in one year and the settlement of all core issues including borders, Jerusalem and water.