Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a visit to Washington, voiced pessimism about the prospect of peace with the Palestinians, suggesting the current stalemate was likely to remain in place.
A peace process to end nearly 70 years of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has stalled for more than a year, when the latest US attempt at mediation failed.
“Any deal, or any arrangement, unilateral or negotiated, must have Israel maintain the ability to defend itself by itself against threat, including from territories that are ceded,” Netanyahu said.
“That’s the most important provision,” he added. “That is something that I don’t see the Palestinians accepting now.”
The Israeli leader, known to be aligned with Republicans in Congress, was speaking at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in the US capital.
His comments came amid growing violence that has raised fears over the potential for a new Palestinian uprising.
The unrest has seen 10 Israelis and at least 77 people on the Palestinian side — one of them an Israeli Arab — killed since October 1.
Netanyahu said that his settlement freeze “didn’t help” in restarting peace talks, adding that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas “didn’t come to the table.”
The international community has condemned Israeli settlement building as a threat to the Middle East peace process by eroding the basis for a future Palestinian state.
When a question came from the audience about Jerusalem — another key point in any agreements envisaged in the past — Netanyahu motioned that he did not want to broach the matter.
“There the question of Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount, I think it’s insoluble. I just don’t see right now a solution for that,” Netanyahu said in reference to Palestinians who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
“I think it has to remain under Israeli sovereignty, and that’s the only way to prevent this from exploding.”
During a meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House Monday, Netanyahu tried to bury suggestions — fueled by his own re-election campaign comments — that he does not support the creation of a Palestinian state.
For decades, the prospect of a two-state solution has been the bedrock of peace efforts. Netanyahu had infuriated the White House by suggesting that prospect was dead.
“I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace. We’ll never give up our hope for peace,” Netanyahu said.