Two weeks before Israeli parliamentary elections - and despite a series of hardline statements and actions aimed at attracting right-wing voters - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he still supports Palestinian statehood, DPA reported.
"I didn't spare any attempt to achieve the opening of talks," Netanyahu said, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "evaded them systematically. He raised preconditions, to my regret, that he knew we couldn't accept."
He was referring to Abbas' demand that Israel freeze settlement construction if it wants peace. Instead, Netanyahu has expedited planned construction on West Bank land in and around Jerusalem. The Netanyahu government had also recently toughened its language against Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
"I still invite Abu Mazen (Abbas) to hold negotiations without preconditions. That invitation exists," Netanyahu said in a 20-minute interview on public radio.
He was answering a question as to whether he still supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - as he had declared in a June 2009 policy speech - even though his Likud party has not mentioned the two-state solution in its campaigning.
The Palestinians must also declare the end of the conflict as part of any peace deal, which should include stringent security measures.
"It cannot be that we transfer this territory or another and they continue to wage war from it," he said, adding these demands were no preconditions for talks to start, but rather conditions for negotiations to end and culminate in a deal.
The security demands were even more valid now, after the "tremendous upheaval" of the Arab Spring, than they were when he first raised them four years ago, he said.
The Likud-Israel Beiteinu list still enjoys a strong lead in opinion polls ahead of the January 22 election, but has been losing support to the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party of high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett.