Fears of Palestine integration leads Israeli PM to peace table
Palestinian children walk past an Israeli border policeman standing guard near a Palestinian house in the center of Hebron. Security forces evict dozens of Jewish settlers and meet no resistance during the operation. AFP photoIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he still hopes to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, because the alternative would be absorbing them into Israel and destroying the Jewish character of the state. Netanyahu is preparing to send a letter to Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas, in which he will call on him to return to the negotiation table.
“I want to solve the conflict with the Palestinians because I don’t want a binational state,” Netanyahu said in a news conference to mark the three year anniversary of his government on April 3. “For as long as it depends on me, we will ensure the Jewish and democratic character of Israel.” Jews make up roughly 80 percent of Israel’s almost 8 million population.
However, if Israel is combined with the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem - land occupied since the 1967 war - the Arab population nears parity, and according to some demographers is would become a majority soon. “The existence of a Jewish state is not just a matter of separation [from the Palestinians], it’s a matter of security, preserving our basic national interests, and this requires negotiations … It is the Palestinians and not us who chose not to hold negotiations over the last three years,” the Associated Press quoted Netanyahu as saying. “I hope they change their minds in the coming months. We are ready and prepared to hold negotiations.”
All core issues on the table
According to daily Haaretz, Netanyahu intends to send a letter to Palestine Abbas in which he will call on him to return to the negotiating table promptly and without preconditions. A senior Israeli official said the letter would be a response to a similar statement Abbas plans to relay to Netanyahu in the upcoming days. In his letter, Netanyahu will state that Israel is willing to discuss all core issues: borders, security arrangements, refugees, water, settlements, and the fate of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu will write that he isn’t laying down any preconditions to the negotiations and expects the Palestinians to do the same. Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010, but Jordan and the peacemaking Quartet sponsored several rounds of meetings between envoys from each sides in January.
ISRAELI FORCES EVICT HEBRON
Israeli security forces evicted dozens of Jewish settlers yesterday from a building that they illegally took over in a combustible West Bank. Police spokesman said security forces met no resistance during the operation. The eviction took Israelis by surprise, because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had blocked an eviction order requiring the settlers to leave the house just a day earlier. About 850 settlers live in Hebron in heavily guarded enclaves among 180,000 Palestinians.