Washington: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that the Palestinian Authority should cut its ties to Hamas militants running the Gaza Strip and engage in "genuine" peace talks with Israel.
Speaking with NBC television, Netanyahu also insisted he was "proud to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens, Arabs and Jews alike" after triggering outrage for urging supporters to vote for him, warning Israeli Arabs were "turning out in droves."
The veteran Israeli leader had raised global alarm when he vowed in the final days of the election campaign that he would never agree to a Palestinian state on his watch -- flying in the face of decades of US policy to achieve a two-state solution.
In his first interview with a US television network since winning an unprecedented fourth term on Tuesday, Netanyahu did not completely walk back those comments.
But he suggested he remained open to the possibility of new peace talks, saying Israel would "need the recognition of (a) Jewish state and real security in order to have a realistic two-state solution."
"I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable," Netanyahu said.
"To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people committed to peace ... it`s time we saw the pressure on the Palestinians to show that they are committed too."
Iran, which backs Hamas in the Gaza Strip, was ready to start pouring arms into the West Bank run by the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu claimed.
"We withdrew from Gaza, we got thousands of rockets on our heads. (We) don`t want it to happen again. I think the administration has said time and time again, the only way to achieve peace is a negotiated solution -- you can`t impose peace," he told NBC News.
"If you want to get peace, you`ve got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel for an achievable peace."
The Israeli leader also maintained that his controversial anti-Arab comments on a Facebook page aimed at drumming up support at the ballot box were an attempt "to counter a foreign-funded effort to get votes that are intended to topple my party."
Some outside groups had vowed to "try to get out votes for a specific part, an amalgamation of Islamists and other groups," Netanyahu said, without giving any details, insisting he was not "trying to suppress a vote."
He pledged to try to have "real integration of Arab citizens of Israel into the Israeli economy."
The White House on Wednesday had chastised Netanyahu for his remarks, saying such rhetoric "seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens."