NEW YORK (JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu called on Mahmoud Abbas to launch talks immediately in New York and said he was ready to "move ahead" with U.S.-backed parameters.
"I extend my hand, the hand of Israel in peace — I hope you will grasp that," the Israeli prime minister said in his address Sept. 23 to the U.N. General Assembly, an hour or so after the address by Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. "If we genuinely want peace, let us meet in this building."
Abbas had called in his speech for recognition of Palestinian statehood, but reiterated his precondition that Israel freeze all settlement building.
Netanyahu for the first time publicly suggested he was ready to negotiate on the basis of parameters President Obama laid out in May; at the time, Netanyahu had objected vigorously to Obama’s call for negotiations based in 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps.
"There were things in the ideas" Obama proposed "about borders that I didn’t like, there were things about the Jewish state that I’m sure the Palestinians didn’t like," Netanyahu said. "For all my reservations, I was willing to move ahead."
In recent weeks, Netanyahu reportedly told American interlocutors he is willing to work with Obama’s parameters.
In the speech, he accused Abbas, who that day had appealed to the General Assembly for statehood recognition, of seeking statehood without peace. "The truth is so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate," he said. "The truth is the Palestinians want a state without peace.”
He said he and Israel genuinely want peace but that peace must be "anchored in security."
Netanyahu quoted the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, calling the U.N. a “house of lies” — though he prefaced it by saying he hoped those assembled wouldn’t be offended.
He warned of the dangers of militant Islam, invoking the 9/11 attacks and admonishing those U.N. delegates who failed to walk out of the General Assembly when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad on Thursday suggested that 9/11 wasn’t actually a terrorist attack.
Netanyahu recalled Israel’s experience ceding territory to the Palestinians in Gaza and to the Lebanese in 2000.
“When Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, the moderates didn’t defeat the radicals, the moderates were devoured by the radicals,” he said.
“We left Gaza hoping for peace,” he said. "But Israel didn’t get peace. We got war.”
He cited the flow of weapons into Gaza and Hamas’ use of the strip as a base for rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel. “Given all this, Israelis rightly ask: What’s to prevent this all from happening again in the West Bank?”