Refusal to recognise Jewish state preventing peace, Netanyahu says

Settlements not the reason for ongoing conflict, Israeli prime minister tells United Nations secretary general

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) meets UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon in Jerusalem yesterday. Photograph: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) meets UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon in Jerusalem yesterday. Photograph: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images

Sat, Aug 17, 2013, 01:00


Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state is the main obstacle preventing the sides from reaching a peace agreement.

Meeting in Jerusalem yesterday with United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Mr Netanyahu said settlements are an issue that must be resolved, but are not the reason behind an ongoing conflict.

The previous day, after talks in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, the UN chief said he was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s continuing settlement activity in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem. He added that “the settlement activity is deepening the Palestinian people’s mistrust in the seriousness on the Israeli side toward achieving peace. It will ultimately render a two-state solution impossible”.

However, Mr Netanyahu stressed that recent building permits were limited to areas that will in all likelihood remain under Israeli control in a final-status peace deal.

“The real issue is how to get a demilitarised Palestinian state to finally recognise and accept the . . . Jewish State,” he said.

Mr Ban praised peace negotiators but made it clear what he thinks a final peace agreement should look like.

“The prime minister knows that occupying Palestinian lands is not a long-term solution to Israel’s regional challenges,” he said.

At the same time he stressed that Israel has legitimate security concerns. “It is unacceptable that Israelis should have to live in perpetual fear.”

Mr Abbas said peace talks this week dealt with all final-status issues, including borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, security and prisoners.

Mr Abbas said the Palestinians entered the negotiations with “sincere intentions”. He expressed the hope that Israel would reciprocate similarly “to create the appropriate atmosphere by halting settlements which we and the world consider illegitimate”.