17 May 2011
Israel was willing to have real peace with the Palestinians, but the current Palestinian administration in Ramallah was not a true partner for peace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the Knesset. The Jewish state would be willing to make compromises, including ceding land to the Palestinians, in return for peace, Netanyahu told the Israeli parliamentarians at the opening of the Knesset’s summer session and a day after Arab demonstrators violently marked ‘Nakba’ Day. "This is not a conflict about 1967, but about 1948, when the State of Israel was established," Netanyahu said, suggesting that it was 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 nation state of the Jewish people."
Netanyahu, who will meet with US President Barack Obama and address both houses of Congress next week, made a commitment to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and called for Palestinian refugees to be absorbed outside of the Jewish state. He 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. The prime minister also called on the opposition to join in a unity government "while our very existence is being challenged."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni rejected this call, responding to 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." She said Netanyahu would go down in history as the prime minister who had allowed the formation of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. The session, which also marked the anniversary of the birth of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement a hundred years ago, was interrupted several times by heckling from lawmakers.
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