A day after a U.S. State Department spokesman criticized Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back on Tuesday, calling the U.S. position "unacceptable."
Speaking at a joint press conference with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali, Netanyahu said, "We are familiar with the American position. It is not new. It is also not acceptable to us.
"With all due respect, it is neither the construction in Jerusalem nor that in Maaleh Adumim that make peace more remote. What prevents peace, first of all, is the constant incitement against the existence of the State of Israel within any borders, and the time has come for all the nations of the world to recognize this simple truth. There is also a second truth: The way to resolve conflicts is by direct negotiations.
"We are ready at all times to hold direct negotiations without preconditions with our neighbors; however, they are not prepared to hold them with us. These are the two things that are preventing peace not a few apartments near the city of Maaleh Adumim, or several neighborhoods in Jerusalem."
Meanwhile, at a Likud gathering at Kfar Maccabiah on Tuesday, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called for a full renewal of construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the application of Israeli sovereignty to Jewish communities in the greater Jerusalem area, including Maaleh Adumim, Givat Zeev, Beitar Illit and Gush Etzion. Katz also urged a renewal of construction throughout Judea and Samaria "in accordance with needs."
At the same gathering, Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Zeev Elkin said the pre-1967 borders must not serve as the basis for future peace negotiations with the Palestinians. And Likud MK Avi Dichter, the head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called the French peace initiative "totally disconnected from the facts and reality of the Middle East." Dichter said the French initiative had "zero chance of success" because it "contains nothing." Dichter also stated that Israel would never grant a right of return to Palestinian refugees.
Originally published by Israel Hayom at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=34819