JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wants to reach an understanding with the Palestinians on the borders of settlement blocs.
Netanyahu last week told Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy that he would reopen peace talks with the Palestinians over the issue, which would clarify where in the West Bank Israel could continue building, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed senior Israeli official who was briefed on the small meeting.
Netanyahu’s main goal at the meeting was to show that he is ready for a resumption of talks, the official told Haaretz.
At the start of the meeting, Netanyahu reiterated that he was committed to the principle of “two states for two peoples,” and Mogherini responded using the same phrase, which the Israeli government prefers to “two-state solution.”
Mogherini reportedly told Netanyahu that she would like to see “steps on the ground” in order to “show commitment” to a solution.
“It’s clear there are areas that will remain under Israeli control under any agreement, just as it’s clear there are areas that will remain under Palestinian control under any agreement,” the Haaretz source quoted Netanyahu as saying. “Therefore, we can advance toward understandings on which areas we can continue building in, since in any case, they’ll remain under Israeli control.”
Israeli officials and European diplomats said that Mogherini was very pleased when she left the meeting with Netanyahu, according to Haaretz.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement released Tuesday that Netanyahu’s comment on a two-state solution is “nothing new.”
“It’s a request to continue illegal settlement construction with Palestinian consent,” Erekat said. “If Mr. Netanyahu wants to have meaningful negotiations ending the occupation that began in 1967 he should recognize a Palestinian State on the 1967 border and honour Israel’s obligations including a halt of settlement construction and the release of the Palestinian prisoners.”