Netanyahu Outlines Plan for Peace

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JERUSALEM, Israel - In his address to the Knesset Monday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the core issue in the conflict with the Palestinians is their refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.

"The root of the conflict is, and always has been, their refusal to recognize the Jewish state. It is not a conflict over 1967, but over 1948, over the very existence of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said the changes taking place in Arab countries "could be for the best" in the long term, but in the short term, Israel's "situation could possibly worsen, be more problematic and more challenging."

"We can see what is happening in Egypt, in Syria and in Lebanon. Lebanon is now controlled by Hezbollah, under the sponsorship of Iran, when only five years ago there was such great hope for freedom and progress," he said.

Netanyahu said Israel saw this played out Sunday on the borders with Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.

"Thousands thronged against our fences in an attempt to invade our territory and challenge our sovereignty," he said. "From the point of view of yesterday's rioters, 63 years of Israeli independence have changed nothing."

The Palestinians regard the founding of the State of Israel as "their nakba, their catastrophe," he said.

"But their catastrophe was that they did not have a leadership that was willing to reach a true historic compromise between the Palestinian people and the Jewish people," he said.

Netanyahu laid out six key points that could pave the way to resolving the conflict -- points, he said, all Israelis could agree on.

· The Palestinians recognize the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
· The agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must end the conflict and all demands on the State of Israel.
· The problem of the Palestinian refugees will be resolved outside of Israel and not within its borders.
· A Palestinian state must be demilitarized, with practical security arrangements, including long-term presence along the Jordan River.
· Israel will retain the settlement blocs.
· Jerusalem will remain the united and sovereign capital of the State of Israel.

Not surprisingly, the Palestinian Authority immediately rejected them.

"Netanyahu's statements prove once again that Israel is not interested in peace and that it continues to challenge the international community," said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu leaves for Washington Thursday for a meeting on Friday with President Barack Obama at the White House.

Former Israeli liaison to the U.S. Congress Yoram Ettinger told CBN News the two leaders should be focusing on the uprisings in the Middle East rather than the Palestinian issue.

"This is the time that both should meet to discuss U.S. Israeli cooperation in the face of the Middle East uprisings," Ettinger said. "To waste a visit to Washington focusing once again on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which plays a secondary role in the issues facing the Middle East, does not bode well for either Netanyahu or Obama," he said.

At 6:00 p.m. Thursday, President Obama will lay out his perspective on a negotiated settlement, which will reportedly include most of the newly formed Palestinian unity coalition's demands, namely that Israel withdraw to the 1948 armistice lines, cease all "settlement expansion" and divide Jerusalem.

At the same time, Obama is expected to insist that the P.A. recognize Israel's right to exist and drop its plans to seek unilateral recognition of a state at the U.N. in September.

Most experts believe those expectations will fall on deaf ears, especially since the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.

"I want to make peace with a Palestinian state that will end the conflict. I cannot accept a Palestinian state that will continue it. I am willing to accept a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, but I will not accept a Palestinian state in place of Israel," Netanyahu said.

After Monday's address to AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner.

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