Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is still committed to a Palestinian state, provided that state is demilitarised and recognises the Jewish state of Israel.
The Israeli premier made the comments following his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, where he tried to smooth concerns about comments he made in the run-up to the Israeli elections earlier this year, when he appeared to rule out a Palestinian state entirely.
“I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace — we’ll never give up our hope for peace,” he said. “And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish state.”
It was the first meeting between the two men in a year, and the first face-to-face since the U.S. won backing for its negotiated agreement with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.
Netanyahu said it was “one of the best meetings I’ve had with Obama,” adding: “The conversation was in very good spirits, very honest. No-one hid the disagreements between us. Rather, we focused on how to go forward.”
The two countries are renegotiating a 10-year, multibillion-dollar package of military aid for Israel. Netanyahu is understood to be asking for $5 billion per annum, a substantial increase on the $3 billion Israel currently gets.
Obama said the two men, who met for over two hours in private, also discussed ways of calming tensions that have seen a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in recent weeks.
This week, an East Jerusalem train guard was stabbed and wounded by two Palestinian children aged 12 and 13 years. The 12-year old was shot at the scene, the other was apprehended. They are believed to be among the youngest attackers yet.
Meanwhile, outside the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s walled Old City, a 37-year-old Palestinian was shot dead after trying to stab two guards, according to police, and in the nearby suburb of Abu Dis, another Palestinian was shot dead after trying to stab security forces at a checkpoint.
Ten Israelis and dozens of Palestinians have now been killed in the recent unrest. Many of the Palestinian fatalities are believed to have been the attackers, but others have been innocent people caught up in the hatred, which has at times seen angry mobs beating people to death.