Bloomberg News

Netanyahu Says He Won’t Back Down After Meeting Obama Envoy

June 15, 2011

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama’s new Middle East envoy and told lawmakers afterward he won’t back down from positions that divide Israel and the Palestinians.

David Hale, who replaced George Mitchell last month as Obama’s point man for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, met Netanyahu in Jerusalem today with White House adviser Dennis Ross, said Kurt Hoyer, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv.

“The whole region is burning,” Netanyahu said later in a speech to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. “We have to unite around common values shared by an overwhelming majority of the nation.”

Among the six principles Netanyahu said would govern any future talks are that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” Palestinian refugees cannot return to Israel, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s “undivided” capital and any future Palestinian state must be demilitarized, allowing an Israeli military presence along the Jordanian border.

Middle East peace talks have been frozen since last September. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he won’t resume talks with Israel until Netanyahu again freezes settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which he did for 10 months in 2009 and 2010. Netanyahu says he won’t negotiate with Abbas if the Palestinian Authority goes ahead with its agreement to establish a new government with Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

Saeb Erakat, Abbas’s chief negotiator, said in Cairo that the Israeli leader’s positions make it impossible to resume negotiations.

“Netanyahu is not a partner in the peace process,” Erakat said after meeting in Cairo with Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa, according to Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency.

Mitchell resigned May 13 after failing to persuade Netanyahu and Abbas to put aside their conditions and return to the negotiating table.

--With reporting by Mariam Fam in Cairo and Fadwa Hodali in Ramallah. Editors: Eddie Buckle, Ben Livesey

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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