US-Israel serious to include Arabs in peace deal: Netanyahu

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NEW YORK - Israel and the US are “quite serious” in adding Arab governments in the Middle East peace negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday in New York before his meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Both Netanyahu and Clinton told reporters before their meeting that they had conferred by telephone “quite intensively” in recent weeks. They met last month, with Clinton acting as mediator, when Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had direct talks in Sharm el-Sheikh and Jerusalem.

“We’ve been talking and will talk today about how to resume them to continue this process to get the historic agreement with peace and security between us and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said.

“I would like to add that we also hope to broaden it to many other Arab countries,” he said. “So this is our common goal. We’re quite serious about doing it and we want to get on with it, so you’ll have to stop asking questions.”

Clinton said the discussion with Netanyahu was to touch on “everything”, including Jewish settlements and the resumption of the peace talks.

“That’s what we’re going to be discussing. We’re both very committed to it. I know and I’ve said repeatedly that the prime minister and President Abbas are both very committed to the two-state solution and we’re going to find a way forward,” Clinton said.

The meeting was the first since Netanyahu and his government announced last month the resumption of construction in East Jerusalem, which resulted in a suspension of Netanyahu’s direct talks with Abbas.

Both Clinton and US President Barack Obama have criticised Israel’s stance on the issue.

“We’re going to be talking about everything, and I will save my comments beyond what I’ve already said to talk to the prime minister,” Clinton said.

Netanyahu, in the US this week for meetings with American Jewish federations and groups, said that he and Clinton had been “talking on the phone quite intensively over the last few weeks”.

Israel’s largest-selling daily, Yediot Ahronot, quoted Israeli sources close to the prime minister as saying that Israel would want a 10-year security agreement with the US in exchange for a renewed freeze on Jewish housing construction for “several months”.

The previous moratorium expired end of October and was not renewed despite international calls for Israeli to do so. The resumption of housing construction resulted in a suspension of direct Netanyahu-Abbas talks.

Yediot Ahronot said peace negotiations over a final deal would be accelerated during the renewed freeze. It said if a deal were to be reached, it would take 10 years to implement. But it said the deal would leave out Jerusalem and main settlement blocs that Israel wants to keep.

Yediot also said that Clinton planned to present her own formula, which would call on Netanyahu to agree to negotiate the borders of the future Palestinian state first. In return, the US would request the Palestinians to accept “limited continued construction in specific sites in which construction has already begun”.

Clinton was also expected to demand Netanyahu to provide information about plans to build 1,300 housing units in East Jerusalem settlements at Har Homa and Ramot.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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