Jerusalem, April 3 – Israel is still ready hold direct talks with the Palestinian Authority, despite the recent harsh rhetoric from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is marking three years in office.
“There is no way to conclude negotiations unless you actually start them,” he said. Israel is urging face-to-face negotiations in line with the calls of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States. The Palestinians walked away from high-level talks in September 2010 and have refused to return to the table. A series of lower-level meetings between officials in Jordan earlier this year failed to produce a breakthrough.
Abbas has recently been complaining that Israel has no interest in a two-state solution and has been destroying the peace process. He has reportedly been preparing a letter to hand to Netanyahu stating his pre-conditions for resuming talks.
According to Abbas, the letter states that If Israel is not willing to freeze construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority will file a complaint with international bodies.
In his remarks marking the beginning of his fourth year in office, Netanyahu stressed his government’s two-pronged emphasis on security and building a strong economy. He spoke the day after the International Monetary Fund issued its annual report on Israel's economy.
The report concluded that Israel's economy remains strong with GDP growing 4.7 percent in 2011, led by robust private consumption and buoyant investment. However, the global downturn is slowing Israeli growth, with 2012 GDP growth expected at 2.8 percent.
Nevertheless, Israel’s fundamentals are strong: inflation and inflation expectations are squarely within the 1-3 percent target range, unemployment is at historic lows, the net international investment position is a surplus, and public debt has fallen steadily to below 75 percent of GDP. These strengths are also underpinned by Israel's sound institutional frameworks, including fiscal rules and a new central bank law. Furthermore, following recent discoveries of natural gas fields, Israel may become a net energy exporter in coming years