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Israeli PM turns to Arab TV in call for peace

Last Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 23:39

Jerusalem: With a September deadline
looming, Israel`s prime minister turned to the Arabic media
on Thursday for the first time since taking office two years ago in
an attempt to lure the Palestinians back to peace talks,
saying "everything is on the table."

Benjamin Netanyahu`s interview with the Al-Arabiya
satellite channel reflects Israeli concerns over Palestinian
plans to seek UN recognition of their independence this fall.

But it also highlights Netanyahu`s new strategy of engaging
directly with the Arab public.

Netanyahu has fielded questions from Arabs before on
YouTube and even made a recorded plea to Arab viewers to
submit questions. But the face-to-face Al-Arabiya interview is
his first of its kind. Netanyahu`s office called the move "the
beginning of a new era" and promised more such interviews in
the near future.

The interview, to air later today, comes as Israel is
scrambling to counter the Palestinian UN initiative this fall.

Israel fiercely opposes the move, saying a Palestinian state
should be formed through negotiations and not by unilateral
steps.

Peace negotiations have been stalled since 2008, and
the Palestinians have refused to negotiate while Israel
continues to build homes in Jewish settlements.

Although the vote will be largely symbolic, the
Palestinians hope to isolate Israel and put pressure on it to
make concessions.

In the interview, Netanyahu says he is willing to
negotiate anywhere and with anyone who accepts Israel`s right
to exist.

"Everything is on the table. But we need to get to the
table," Netanyahu said, according to excerpts released by
Al-Arabiya ahead of time.

Netanyahu said he realised he would have to make
"difficult compromises for peace," but he offered few new
details about his plans.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and east
Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war,
as parts of a future independent state. Netanyahu has said he
wants to keep parts of the West Bank, and he opposes any
division of Jerusalem.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 23:39

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