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Israeli Response to Palestinian Call for State of Palestine

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On September 23, 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address to the United Nation’s that expressed Israel’s response to efforts by the Palestinian National Authority to seek United Nations approval of a Palestinian State. Here are links to his full remarks and a video of the speech.

A few months earlier, in May 2011, Netanyahu laid out his principles for accepting a Palestinian state. He strongly implied that Israel would relinquish a vast majority of the West Bank for a demilitarized Palestinian state provided Israel retained all of Jerusalem and large settlement blocs in the West Bank. Netanyahu’s principles also required Palestinian recognition of Israel, an agreement to end the conflict, resolution of the refugee problem, and Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.

The Prime Minister's remarks at the United Nations in September 2001 included many of these principles. Here are some key quotes from Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech.

Netanyahu challenged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume direct negotiations

“President Abbas, why don’t you join me? We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations. Let’s just get on with it. Let’s negotiate peace.” [...] “The truth is that we cannot achieve peace through UN resolutions but only through direct negotiations between the parties.”

Netanyahu called the United Nations the “theater of the absurd”

“[Israel is] singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel -- the one true democracy in the Middle East. Well, this is an unfortunate part of the UN institution. It's the theater of the absurd. It doesn’t only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles: Gadhafi’s Libya chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights; Saddam’s Iraq headed the UN Committee on Disarmament.”
“You might say: That’s the past. Well, here’s what’s happening now -- right now, today. Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides over the UN Security Council. This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world’s security.”

Netanyahu expressed support for two state solution

“The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state. But I also want to tell you this. After such a peace agreement is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. We will be the first.”
“I think it’s time that the Palestinian leadership recognizes what every serious international leader has recognized, from Lord Balfour and Lloyd George in 1917, to President Truman in 1948, to President Obama: Israel is the Jewish state.”
“President Abbas, stop walking around this issue. Recognize the Jewish state, and make peace with us. In such a genuine peace, Israel is prepared to make painful compromises. We believe that the Palestinians should be neither the citizens of Israel nor its subjects. They should live in a free state of their own.”

Netanyahu affirmed Israeli security needs and military presence in West Bank

“The truth is — the truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that in the Middle East at all times, but especially during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security.
“Without Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, Israel is all of 9 miles wide. To defend itself, Israel must therefore maintain a long-term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas in the West Bank.”
“[W]e will know that they’re ready for compromise and for peace when [the Palestinians] start taking Israel’s security requirements seriously and when they stop denying our historical connection to our ancient homeland.”

Netanyahu argued that Israel has uprooted Jewish settlements

“We didn't freeze the settlements in Gaza, we uprooted them. We did exactly what the theory says: Get out, go back to the 1967 borders, dismantle the settlements. [...] We uprooted thousands of people from their homes. We pulled children out of their schools and their kindergartens. We bulldozed synagogues. We even moved loved ones from their graves. And then, having done all that, we gave the keys of Gaza to President Abbas.”

Netanyahu elaborates the bitter lessons of Gaza

“Hezbollah and Hamas fired thousands of rockets against our cities from the very territories we vacated. See, when Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, the [Islamic] moderates didn’t defeat the radicals; the moderates were devoured by the radicals. And I regret to say that international troops [...] didn’t stop the radicals from attacking Israel.”

Netanyahu claims Jerusalem as historic home and capital of Israel

“I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem. That’s like accusing America of Americanizing Washington or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we’re called “Jews”? Because we come from Judea.”
“In my office in Jerusalem, there’s an ancient seal. It’s a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. [...] “Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Sumeria 4,000 years ago, and there’s been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since.”
“And for those Jews who were exiled from our land, they never stopped dreaming of coming back: Jews in Spain on the eve of their expulsion; Jews in the Ukraine fleeing the pogroms; Jews fighting the Warsaw Ghetto as the Nazis were circling around it. They never stopped praying, they never stopped yearning. They whispered: Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in the promised land.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s UN speech in September 2011 and the Palestinian call for UN recognition of a State of Palestine provoked significant controversy and cast a shadow on the possibility of future peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

In October 2011, however, Israel and Hamas reached a prisoner exchange agreement brokered by Egypt to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held in Gaza for the last five years. Why the two parties decided to conclude a deal that’s been stalled for years is uncertain, but some observers noted the deal was a useful distraction from the Palestinian bid for UN recognition.

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