Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to start “open-ended” direct peace talks with Israel “without preconditions”.
Speaking to reporters before meeting Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Netanyahu said Israel supports the two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians and accused the latter of having refused to negotiate with Israel for the last decade.
“Unfortunately, the Palestinians don’t negotiate. They ran away from negotiations. They ran away from (former Israeli premier Ehud) Barak; they ran away from (Ariel) Sharon; they ran away from (Ehud) Olmert; they ran away from me,” he said.
Netanyahu also denounced the Palestinians for its unilateral steps at the UN and its efforts to “get sanctions on Israel”.
The last round of peace talks broke down at the end of April last year when Israel refused to release a third batch of Palestinian prisoners and approved thousands of settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians aspire to build their own state.
For his part, Zaoralek appealed to both Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks and warned that Israel may face further international isolation due to lack of peace talks. “Israel will take most of the punches. The prevailing notion in the European Union is that Israel is responsible for the diplomatic deadlock,” he said.
Zaoralek is the latest of top Western diplomats to visit the region to take stock of the new Israeli government’s policies on peace talks.
In the run-up to the March 17 elections, Netanyahu retracted his support for the two-state solution and vowed not to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state while he is in power. These statements raised much concern in the international community.