Israeli premier willing to take risk for "real peace"
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he would prefer to begin direct talks with the Palestinians in order to achieve a "real peace" agreement for Israel, dpa reported.
"I came back to do something and I am willing to take risks," Netanyahu said in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York just days after having patched up differences in a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.
"We have to get on with it and stop all the pretenses," he said. "I need a partner. I feel the moment has arrived."
Netanyahu, who last year took over the premiership of Israel for the second time, said he stands ready to confront skeptics and critics of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.
US-mediated proxy talks have begun between the two sides. But Netanyahu said that stage should be replaced with direct talks "as soon as possible" with the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinians have responded coolly to calls for direct peace negotiations because of Netanyahu's refusal to meet Palestinian demands for a full freeze on Israeli construction in both the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu said security and legitimacy are the two components for a real peace in the Middle East. He said Israel must be guaranteed of its security and that there should be "two states for two peoples" and a "demilitarized Palestinian state must recognize the State of Israel."
"The Palestinians have grievances, we have grievances, too," Netanyahu said.
Turning to the US-Israel relationship, Netanyahu said critics who condemned it as dead were "premature and wrong."
He praised Obama for understanding Israel's quest for a "realistic" solution to the conflict in the Middle East and for his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
After their meeting on Tuesday, Obama and Netanyahu dismissed the notion of a diplomatic rift between them following Israel's plans announced in March for new construction on land claimed by the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and contrary to US policy.
Netanyahu said in an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric Wednesday that he had a "good meeting" with Obama.
"I trust Barack Obama, president of the United States, to carry out with me the policies that have joined Israel and the United States," Netanyahu said.
"We actually see eye-to-eye on some central issues," he said in interview. "The quest for peace. The danger of Iran. The need to bolster security - for Israel and the region. That's the truth. We do see it. Have we had differences? Of course, we have."
The Israeli government, under international pressure ended this week the embargo on major relief goods and construction materials imposed on Gaza Strip for the past three years. The move was welcomed by the United Nations, the US and European Union.
The Israeli premier also spent an hour in talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters on Wednesday. Neither side released significant details of the discussion after the meeting. The UN said they discussed a number of issues, including the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and situation in Gaza.