press trust of india
Jerusalem, 21 July
Israeli hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that negotiations with the Palestinians will be tough and any peace treaty would be put to a referendum.
“Negotiations won’t be easy but we’re entering them honestly, sincerely,” Mr Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting, the first since US Secretary of State John Kerry’s announced the resumption of peace talks between the two sides after a three year deadlock.
Describing the resumption of the diplomatic process as a matter of “vital strategic interest”, Mr Netanyahu pledged to insist on Israel’s security needs above all, saying his main guiding principles will be to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel and avoid a future Palestinian state in the West Bank becoming an Iranian-backed “terror state”. Mr Netanyahu also emphasised that he believes that such a deal requires the approval of people. “I do not think that such decisions can be made, if indeed an agreement is achieved, by this or that coalition process. It must be put to the people for a decision,” he said.
After a round of intense shuttle diplomacy, Mr Kerry announced on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a basis for returning to the peace process, which broke down in 2008.
The two sides are to meet, likely in the coming week, to work out final details before actually resuming formal negotiations on the toughest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The last round of direct talks between the two sides nearly three years ago broke down over the issue of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.