Twice over the past week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has charged that the Palestinian Authority is the main obstacle to peace, first because of its refusal to negotiation without preconditions and second due to its ongoing refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.
Netanyahu told a gathering of Israeli lawmakers on Monday that while he is ready to discuss any peace conditions with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he will not accept preconditions. Abbas demands that Israel first further demonstrate its goodwill by releaseing all jailed Palestinian terrorists and banning all Jewish construction in areas claimed by the Palestinians, including the eastern side of Jerusalem.
"The Palestinian have no interest in entering peace talks," said Netanyahu. "I'm ready to travel now to Ramallah to start peace talks with Abu Mazen, without preconditions. But the simple truth is that Abbas is not ready."
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are currently holding talks in neighboring Jordan, but the Palestinian Authority has declared that it will not remain at the table past January 26 unless Israel accepts the above conditions. Israeli officials say the Palestinians know these are red lines for Israel (especially as preconditions) are are designed to scuttle the talks.
During a state visit to the Netherlands on Wednesday, Netanyahu went on to explain that the peace process would never have become bogged down if only the Palestinians would recognize Israel's right to exist.
The root cause of the conflict is "the persistent refusal to accept a Jewish state within any boundaries," said Netanyahu during a visit to a 400-year-old synagogue in Amsterdam.
Netanyahu noted that he has been asking for three years for Abbas to finally fulfill the original "Oslo Accords" by recognizing Israel's right to exist and to return to the negotiating table. Despite his firm stance on this point, Netanyahu stressed that unlike the Palestinians, he is not setting any preconditions to negotiations, and will restart talks with Abbas tomorrow, whether or not the latter has accepted Israel as the Jewish state.
Netanyahu's visit is the first by an Israeli prime minister to the Netherlands in 15 years. He thanked the conservative government of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for its consistent pro-Israel stance and for helping defend Israel against hostile European Union rulings.