Netanyahu says no 'diplomatic blank check' from US on Palestinian conflict
MANDEL NGAN (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told his fellow Likud party members that the Israeli government does not have a “diplomatic blank check” from the US under the Trump administration in regards to policies on the longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Anyone who thinks there's a blank check is mistaken," Netanyahu told his Knesset faction in the meeting.
"While it is true that we have warm relations and great understanding in regards to our positions, it is not true that we have an open check and that is far from reality.”
He also noted that while US president Donald Trump has expressed his commitment to helping reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, “we have to keep acting wisely and responsibly."
“We are a sovereign nation, we can make many decisions and many more declarations, but regarding US backing, these are not places we should go to,” added the Prime Minister.
The issue was raised in light of the US president’s whirlwind visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories where he met with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas separately.
While the US President maintained he wanted to make a deal, and that he believed both leaders were ready to “reach for peace,” Trump readily sidestepped taking a stance on several contentious issues such as the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank in an unprecedented move from previous White House administrations.
Trump also did not indicate support outright for a two-state solution along the ‘67 borders.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has been a staunch opponent to the two-state solution and recognition of a Palestinian state.
Fellow Likud member Miki Zohar remarked that, "Likud is against the establishment of a Palestinian state and the public is against a Palestinian state, so the voice of the prime minister also needs to be heard on the matter."
Deputy Foreign Minister, also part of the Likud party, Tzipi Hotovely noted that there other options beside a two-state solution that would achieve a diplomatic agreement, reported Haaretz.
Netanyahu added that in his meeting with Trump, he made clear to the US president that the reason an agreement has not yet been made is because of the Palestinians “educating their children, generation after generation, that there will be no Israel with borders of one kind or another,” according to Haaretz, adding that he told the President, Israel needs to keep security control of the West Bank.
“There is still, I would say, categorically, a desire and even an effort to reach an agreement in the faith that the Palestinians are not prepared to forgo their desire to wipe out Israel in stages over time,” said the Prime Minister. “That's not important. I tell you this because we need to deal with it. I need to deal with it."
In the meeting Netanyahu also commended Trump’s efforts while in Israel, saying, “He came here and did very important things and touched our hearts.”
“But he also said that he believes that Abu Mazen [Abbas] wants peace. He said that I want peace and he said that he believes it is possible to reach an agreement and we need to get there.”
In a speech wrapping up his foreign tour on Saturday, Trump reiterated his belief that Abbas was ready to “reach for peace.”
Trump said Abbas assured him that “he is willing to reach for peace with Israel in good faith, and I believe he will.”
He added that, Netanyahu also “assured me that he too was ready to reach for peace. He’s a friend of mine and he means it,” noted Trump.
Sunday, however, media reports surfaced that Trump had apparently yelled at the Palestinian leader during their meeting in Bethlehem last week after Israel reportedly showed Trump evidence that Abbas was "personally responsible for incitement" to violence.
A report by Israel's Channel 2 television on Sunday cites Israeli sources quoting Trump as having angrily accused Abbas of lying "about commitment to peace" during an earlier meeting between the leaders at the White House in April.
"You lied to me in Washington when you talked about commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me you were personally responsible for incitement," the sources quoted Trump yelling.
Palestinian sources denied the reports, however, telling Channel 2, that the meeting between the two leaders was calm.
Israel considers the strong anti-Israeli messages in Palestinian education to be one of the stumbling blocks for a peaceful resolution of the long-standing conflict.
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