Feisty Netanyahu defends Israeli peace role
April 7, 1997
Web posted at: 8:43 p.m. EDT (0043 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Benjamin Netanyahu had little comment Monday on two hours of talks with President Clinton, but he defended Israel's commitment to peace in a blunt and at times feisty discussion with reporters.
There was little hint of compromise as the Israeli prime minister said he came to Washington "with absolutely clean hands," asserting that his government has complied fully with the Oslo peace accords.
"The simple truth of the equation is this: Israel, (which) fulfills the Oslo accords, is accused of violating. The Palestinian side, which violated the accords, is credited with keeping them. And that, I think, is an obstacle to peace because peace can not be built on falsehoods."
|Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
"..clean hands.." (1M/49 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Jerusalem(238K/21 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Har Homa (1.2M/57 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Netanyahu was adamant that a new housing project in disputed East Jerusalem "is fully in line with Oslo" and that it was Israel's Labor government that authorized the project in the first place.
Israeli bulldozers broke ground at the site, called Har Homa in Hebrew and Jabal Abu Ghneim in Arabic, on March 18, sparking almost daily protests by angry Palestinians.
Netanyahu said he proposed to Clinton a strategy of "telescoping negotiations" for peace into a six-month time frame, known as final status talks. The idea is to have both sides "grapple with the issues" over a short time period, he said, rather than letting talks continue for two more years.
"I didn't think that anything I've said is a fait accompli," he said. "My view was if we wait with a final settlement until May 1999 we could erode confidence, not build it."
He added that he welcomed U.S. ideas on the peace process, but declined to elaborate on them.
Clinton said little about the meeting, describing it only as "long and very thorough." But he cautioned that there was a lot of work to get the peace process "back on track."
Clinton has considered sending Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on her first trip to the Middle East as a follow-up to Monday's talks.
White House officials said a Palestinian delegation was expected to visit the president later this week.
Palestinian Cabinet member Hanan Ashrawi told CNN's Judy Woodruff that she heard little encouraging in Netanyahu's remarks.
"Methinks he doth protest too much," she said. "It is unfortunate and it is very sad and painful, but I think that Netanyahu has repeated the same ideological statements, rationalizations and public relation rhetoric that we have heard before."
Ashrawi firmly disputed the Israeli leader's claim that the East Jerusalem housing project is being build on land long under Jewish control.
"It is not even within the boundaries of Jerusalem," Ashrawi said of the project. "Israel extended the boundaries of East Jerusalem to include disputed land and build settlements there."
She also challenged the legitimacy of the project under Oslo. "It says Jerusalem is a permanent status issue and that no side can take unilateral measures or unilateral actions to prejudge or prejudice the outcome of permanent status issues."
'Green light to terror'
Speaking to reporters, Netanyahu lambasted the Palestinians for failing to crack down on terrorism, saying that they have failed to confiscate arms and imprison suspects in accordance with Oslo.
"On the Palestinian side we've seen a green light to terror," he said.
But he was careful to avoid criticism of King Hussein of Jordan, who is recovering from surgery at a Minnesota hospital. The Israeli leader visited Hussein Sunday before heading to Washington.
"We didn't point an accusing finger at Jordan," Netanyahu said, noting that King Hussein consoled victims' families after one of his soldiers killed seven teen-age Israeli girls at a border crossing.
"We knew that the Jordanian army does everything it can to prevent such outrages."
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.