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Thursday, December 6, 2012
Q and A at PM Netanyahu - Chancellor Merkel Press Conference

6 December 2012

Questions and Answers from the Press Conference with PM Benjamin Netanyahu
and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

December 6, 2012

PM: Thank you. I explained yesterday to Chancellor Merkel that we have been
following the same policy for close to 45 years – that is, all Israeli
governments have built in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and in what
are called the settlement blocs, which are really suburbs of Jerusalem and
Tel Aviv, where roughly 90% of Israeli citizens live in Judea and Samaria,
in these suburbs that are very close to both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. So
that's not a new policy, and in this sense from previous governments to me,
there's no change and there hasn't been a change.

The second point is about E1: This is a small corridor between one of these
suburbs east of Jerusalem – about 40,000 people live there. It's about two
miles from Jerusalem. Successive governments from Yitzhak Rabin on down to
my predecessor, Mr. Olmert, have also said that this will be incorporated in
a final peace treaty between Israel. The curious thing is that most
governments who have looked at these suggestions, these proposals over the
years, including the Palestinians themselves as revealed in leaked
documents, understand that these blocs, these arrangements are going to be
part of Israel in a final political settlement of peace. So I have not
changed the policy. This is a consistent policy. My hope is that, as the
dust settles, President Abbas decides to abandon unilateralism, as he went
to the UN unilaterally – to abandon it, to return to the negotiations. We
have our position; they have their positions. The only way to really resolve
them is to do what the Chancellor and I did last night, and it's a long
process. You have to sit down and you have to discuss these differences and
to see if you can come to a resolution. I think, what the Chancellor told me
last night, it doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. Certainly between
friends we can have disagreements, but we our friendship is solid and we
understand that. With adversaries or former adversaries, it takes more time,
but you can't finish a negotiation unless you start it. And Israel was and
remains prepared to begin such direct negotiations without preconditions.

Q: …Prime Minister Netanyahu, we heard last week in Israel that somebody in
the Foreign Ministry said after the vote in the UN that we lost Europe. Is
that your conviction? And if so, how do you get Europe back? Thank you very

PM: Thank you. Look, I don't think we lost Europe when we have virtually
universal support for our defensive operation in Gaza against the rocketing
of our civilians by Palestinian terrorists. I think there was virtually
universal support. There is obviously a difference of view in Europe on the
issue of settlements because most Europeans believe that the issue, the root
cause of our conflict with the Palestinians is the settlements. The
settlements issue is one that has to be resolved in negotiations, but it is
not the root cause of our conflict because this conflict was waged from the
areas adjacent to Israel for 50 years before there was a single settlement.

The attempt to wipe out the Jewish state was conducted from 1920 to 1967, 47
years, when there wasn't a singer Israeli settlement or a single Israeli
soldier in the West Bank or in Gaza. Having departed these territories, for
example from Gaza, the attacks continue on Israel. Why? Why are they
rocketing Israel? We left Gaza. The answer is that those who oppose Israel,
oppose Israel in any boundary. If it was merely a territorial question, we
would have resolved it long ago. And I believe that we still have to exhaust
the possibility that we'll have a partner who really wants a territorial
solution and is not existentially opposed to Israel's presence there in any
boundary. I think the root cause is not the settlements; it's an issue to be
resolved. The root cause is the opposition to the State of Israel in any
border. I hope that we can engage at least part of the Palestinian people in
a discussion about mutual coexistence, about mutual peace, about two states
for two peoples, about a Jewish state living next to a Palestinian state,
about security borders for Israel. This is our task.

Now, I haven't given up on it, and I'll tell you the best proof that I
haven't given up on that and in trying to persuade fair-minded, decent
people and decent leaders in Europe, the best proof that I believe that that
is a worthwhile and achievable objective is that fact that I am here and
will continue to work with Chancellor Merkel and with her government, to see
how we can advance this realistic peace. We don't give up so quickly, on

Q: Yes, my question to Madam Chancellor first: Is Germany considering any
other steps against Israel if Israel does continue with settlement
expansion? And my question to Prime Minister Netanyahu, if you're willing,
in Hebrew please, can you explain what caused this change of position within
Europe in only two weeks?

PM: Thank you. Look, I think there is a lot of room for discussion and for
seeking new ideas, because we haven't been able to break the mold. I suppose
there is frustration in Europe that we haven't resolved the Palestinian
problem, but remember that there have been six Israeli Prime Ministers since
Oslo who have been unable to sign a peace accord with the Palestinian
Authority, and it's not because of lack of trying from Yitzhak Rabin,
through Shimon Peres, through myself to Ehud Barak and then Ariel Sharon and
Ehud Olmert. Believe me, there were many generous offers that were given.
Sometimes I think that, in their desire to see a quick fix to the problem,
many European governments can be frustrated but, as I said, I never lack the
patience or the willingness to discuss with any fair-minded and decent
leaders, and there are quite a few, to discuss the facts: how often we have
been prepared to sit down the Palestinians and negotiate; what kind of steps
Israel has taken, including my own government, for the sake of advancing
peace. And you know, I think that the more as people look at this and we
actually have a discussion, then they see that maybe there's a timidity on
the Palestinian side, that they have not yet engaged in these kinds of
direct negotiations, and as I say, the most important thing is that that
peace will not be decided, not in the United Nations in New York, and not in
Europe. It will be decided between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and the only way
to advance that is to have those direct negotiations.

Q: …And Prime Minister, are you less disappointed about the German
abstention now that you talked to the Chancellor?

PM: If you'd read the full quote, it began actually with my expression of
appreciation for Chancellor Merkel's forthright support for Israel in our
recent operation in Gaza, and by the way, it made a difference. I think it
also helped us achieve a ceasefire, that kind of strong international
support, which I thought it was very valuable. I then said that, even though
I was disappointed with the German abstention, I knew that what guided
Chancellor Merkel was her belief that this would somehow advance peace. My
own regrettable comment is that the resolution, notwithstanding the intent,
hardens Palestinian positions and may make it more difficult to enter into
the direct negotiations that we all wish for. But I have no doubt about
Chancellor Merkel's commitment to Israel – none whatsoever.

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