Netanyahu Urges Abbas Back to Negotiating Table

Jerusalem, July 21 - In another move for peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace talks in an interview with Al Arabiya TV yesterday. He said he is ready to talk to the Palestinians anywhere.

“I’m willing to negotiate peace with anyone that’s willing to accept the right of my people and my country,” Netanyahu said during the interview.

He also said: “We will always look for people who want peace. We don’t nullify people on their beliefs but we do expect them to recognize and have a place for the State of Israel. If people like Iran or Hezbollah say the ‘State of Israel shouldn’t exist [or should be] wiped off the face of the earth’ then there is not much of a place to go from there.

“Six Israeli prime ministers, myself included, have all agreed to a Palestinian state…we all recognize that we have to make difficult compromises for peace. I recognize that,” added Netanyahu.

The interview also highlights the regional shifts surrounding a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Netanyahu said that Israel would not rule out talking to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, so long as the group recognizes his country.

Israel would also like to “maintain peace and quiet” on the Israeli-Syrian border and hopes for a “formal peace [accord]” with the Syrians—who, he added, deserve a “better future.”

Israel does not prevent the “import of goods, food, and medicine to Gaza,” Netanyahu explained, adding that Gaza’s economy grew by 25 percent in the last three months. He noted that Israel’s concern lies with Iran-backed Hamas’ firing of rockets at Israel. So far this year, Gaza-based terror groups fired 352 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.

Hamas, the foreign-designated terror regime that has authoritatively ruled Gaza since 2007, and its funder, Iran, have lost support among Palestinians, new polling conducted on behalf of The Israel Project shows. Yet the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Abbas are popular figures. Fatah, Abbas’ political party, leads Hamas by nearly three-to-one in a hypothetical election

Much of this can be attributed to better living conditions in the West Bank – partially a result of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation which led to more jobs and better healthcare.

The West Bank’s unemployment continues to fall and property prices are on the rise. Its economy is slated to grow some 60 percent by 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund. In the first half of last year, the West Bank’s economy grew some 9 percent – while Gaza’s economy expanded 16 percent during that time.

The West Bank exported $858 million in goods in 2010 and there record numbers of tourists visited. More than 100 new companies were registered there in August 2010 alone.

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