Netanyahu to Abbas: 'Let's meet today'

Israeli leader emphasises security but tells UN General Assembly he is ready to negotiate with Palestinian president.

    Israel's leader urged Palestinians to negotiate peace rather than pursue full UN membership [Reuters]

    Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has urged Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to meet with him at the United Nations to discuss Middle East peace efforts.

    "Let's meet today in the United Nations," Netanyahu said in an appeal launched during his address to the UN General Assembly shortly after Abbas presented a formal bid for UN membership for a Palestinian state.

    "I cannot make peace alone. I cannot make peace without you," Netanyahu told Abbas. "We are both sons of Abraham ... our destinies are intertwined."

    But Abbas was due to leave New York later on Friday, leaving the UN Security Council to wrestle with the Palestinians request that is likely to take several weeks  before being brought to a vote, leaving time for further negotiations.

    Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that he was reaching out to the Palestinian people but cautioned that peace could not be won with a UN resolution.

    'Painful compromises'

    Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to make "painful compromises".

    "The Palestinians should live in a future state of their own, but they should be ready for compromise," he said, adding that Palestinians had to ensure Israel's security.

    Al Jazeera correspondent Mike Hanna, reporting from the UN, pointed out that the Israeli leader repeated the idea that Israel was surrounded by hostile forces.

    "Netanyahu talked about how Israel needs to be secure, which would not be guaranteed necessarily by a Palestinian state next door," Hanna said.

     

    Hanna added that Netanyahu was unlikely to get any real response from Abbas because the Palestinian leadership has said it will not meet before establishing clear terms of reference and a timetable.

    "I extend my hand to the Palestinian people," Netanyahu told the 193-nation assembly.

    "The truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace ... The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state," he said.

    Netanyahu added that if there was such a peace, "Israel will not be the last state to welcome a Palestinian state into the United Nations. We will be the first."

    It was also time for the Palestinians to acknowledge that "Israel is the Jewish state," he told the assembly.

    Resumption of talks

    Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed a year ago.

    The Palestinians pulled out after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

    Netanyahu also demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, something they reject because they say that would prejudice the rights of Palestinian refugees.

    Abbas' statehood request reflects a loss of faith after 20 years of failed peace talks sponsored by the United States, Israel's main ally.

    It also exposes Washington's dwindling influence in a region shaken by Arab uprisings and shifting alliances that have pushed Israel, for all its military muscle, deeper into isolation.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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