JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel is willing to have "true peace" with the Palestinians, but the current Palestinian government is not a true partner for peace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset.
Israel also would be willing to make compromises including ceding land to the Palestinians for peace, Netanyahu told the Knesset Monday at the opening of its summer session and a day after Palestinian demonstrations marking Nakba Day, the anniversary of the day that Israel achieved statehood, turned violent and deadly.
"This is not a conflict about 1967 but about 1948, when the State of Israel was established," Netanyahu said, suggesting that it is not just the occupied territories that are at the root of the problem with the Palestinians.
"We cannot bury our heads in the sand," he said. "We must look at this reality with open eyes. We must call this child by its name — the reason there is no peace is because the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people."
Netanyahu, who will meet next week with President Obama and address both houses of Congress, laid out a basic policy statement that will likely follow him to Washington.
In addition to requiring the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu made a commitment to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; called for Palestinian refugees to be absorbed outside of the Jewish state; agreed to a demilitarized Palestinian state that does not threaten Israel’s security; called for keeping large West Bank settlements as part of Israel and for Jerusalem to be the "undivided capital" of Israel.
Netanyahu called on the Israeli opposition to join in a unity government "while our very existence is being challenged."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni rejected the unity call, telling Netanyahu that "unity to keep you in your seat after the damage you have inflicted on the State of Israel is not worthy of unity."
Livni said that Netanyahu would go down in history as the prime minister who allowed the formation of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state.
The session, which also marked the anniversary of the birth of Theodor Herzl, was interrupted several times by heckling from lawmakers.