Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting that he is optimistic regarding upcoming direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but reminded his ministers and the world that for true progress to be made, the Palestinians will need to make concessions, too.
Netanyahu said that after 17 years of failed peace-making, "we want to surprise all the critics and the skeptics, but for that we need a real partner on the Palestinian side."
In particular, Netanyahu said there must be "real and sustainable security" arrangements, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, and the signing of a final status peace agreement must mark the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
"We are discussing a peace agreement between Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state," said Netanyahu. "This state, if it should be established after this process, is due to end the conflict and not to be a façade for its continuation by other means."
Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter to US President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlining how he wants the negotiations to proceed.
According to Abbas' letter, the upcoming talks will only be successful if Israel agrees to a full and complete withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, surrenders the eastern half of Jerusalem, releases all jailed Palestinian terrorists and accepts what the Arabs see as a just solution to the "Palestinian refugee" issue.
[Note - Abbas has long been a proponent of the policy that the only just solution to the refugee issue is for Israel to open its borders to millions of so-called "Palestinian refugees," thus demographically destroying the Jewish state.]
Abbas also reiterated that if Israel carries out any construction in Judea, Samaria or the eastern half of Jerusalem after the start of direct talks on September 2, the Palestinians will pull out of the negotiations.
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