JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from the Knesset podium in English to “give peace a chance.”
Netanyahu was called to the Knesset Wednesday for a special session to discuss the stalled peace process with the Palestinians and the Arab Peace Initiative. He was required to appear after the opposition spurred 40 lawmakers to sign a petition compelling him to be there.
“Since he doesn’t speak Hebrew, and my Arabic is only so-so, I will turn to him in a language we both understand,” Netanyahu said. “I say, give peace a chance.”
According to Knesset rules, lawmakers are permitted to speak only Hebrew and Arabic from the podium.
Switching to Hebrew, Netanyahu said, “We’re listening to any initiative, including the Arab initiative.” Also, “We are in favor of conducting negotiations without preconditions — immediately.”
The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 calls for peace with the entire Arab world in exchange for a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines. Last month the Arab League, which sponsored the initiative, agreed to consider minor land swaps.
“I’m ready to make difficult decisions in order to advance peace, but not if this in any way hurts the security of Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu said. “But we’re not the only ones who have to take tough decisions; the Palestinians, too, have to do this.”
The Israeli leader added that in the last four years, he and Abbas have spoken to each other for a total of “a few hours.”