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Netanyahu: We Have Consensus on Two-State Solution

By: Barak Ravid, Ha'aretz


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday that the government has won "broad national consensus" in Israel for the concept of a two-state solution, hailing it as a major achievement of his 100-day-old coalition.

But the prime minister also lashed out at his detractors, opening the weekly meeting by saying that not only did his government not get a customary 100 days of grace, he in fact had not received "a single day of grace."

Netanyahu outlined the achievements of his government so far, placing at the head of the list the "establishment of a unity government," because of which he has "achieved a wide national consensus on the idea of two states for two peoples."

For the past two decades, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has been based on the concept of two states peacefully existing side by side. In the run-up to his election earlier this year and in the weeks immediately after he took office, Netanyahu drew fire for his reluctance to pledge his support for Palestinian statehood. In a speech last month, however, the prime minister said that he backed a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Netanyahu said Sunday that the infusion of "real meaning" into the two-state solution was one of the most important achievements of his government so far.

"The Palestinians will have no choice but to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the [Palestinian] refugees issue will be resolved outside of Israel, and Israel will be entitled to defensible borders with full demilitarization of the Palestinian state," he said.

He also listed to other achievements - "quiet in southern Israel and power of deterrence."

"I have ordered that Israel respond to every rocket, and that is what is happening," Netanyahu told his ministers, referring to the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel's southern towns.

But while Netanyahu has reversed his stance on the issue of a Palestinian state, another sticking point in Israel-U.S. relations - the construction of settlements in the West Bank - appears to remain unresolved.

Information Minister Yuli Edelstein said that Netanyahu had stressed during the morning meeting that Israel "has made no commitments to the Americans regarding the freezing of construction in Judea and Samaria."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would Monday discuss with a U.S. envoy a compromise over calls for an Israeli settlement freeze and seek ways to promote regional peace.

Barak, who last met envoy George Mitchell on Tuesday in New York, travels to London later Sunday for another round of talks aimed at narrowing a rift with U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration has demanded a halt to settlement activity.

The defense minister told reporters he was aiming for a "broader understanding with the United States on diplomatic moves, including a comprehensive regional agreement".

Barak said Israel was also seeking "a way to translate" the 2003 road map peace plan into "a path acceptable to us, the United States and others".

After last meeting Mitchell, Barak made a link between any Israeli agreement to limit settlement expansion and progress on Arab states "normalizing" relations with Israel.

Barak has publicly raised the possibility Israel might temporarily refrain from starting new building projects - while continuing many under way - in settlements in return for initial steps towards a regional peace agreement.