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Palestinian statehood at 'dead-end': Israel minister
by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) June 18, 2013

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks must resume - China
Beijing (AFP) June 18, 2013 - China called for a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference in Beijing, as the rising global power seeks greater diplomatic influence in the Middle East.

"We need to redouble efforts to promote peace talks," assistant foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said at the United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, an event attended by diplomats, UN delegates, academics, and figures from the Palestinian and Israeli parliaments.

"The international community should be fully aware of the importance and urgency of settling the Palestinian question and make every effort to promote the resumption of peace talks," he added, on the first day of the two-day conference.

China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has voiced support for the Palestinian push for full state membership in the United Nations.

Beijing has traditionally remained distant from Middle East affairs, although it has begun to take a more active diplomatic role in recent years, wielding its UN veto to scuttle some Western-backed proposals on Syria.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu made state visits to Beijing during the same week last month.

Bassam al-Salhi, a representative of Abbas, said that China could play a "special role" in the Middle East on a visit to Beijing last November.

"The importance of this conference is that all the international community support Palestinian inalienable rights," al-Salhi, the head of the Palestinian delegation to the conference, told AFP Tuesday. "China is (a) very important country to take its role in the peace process."

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2010, causing US Secretary of State John Kerry to admonish both Netanyahu and Abbas to make the "tough decisions" needed to restart them.

China generally opposes what it calls intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that the idea of a Palestinian state was at a "dead end", prompting the Palestinians to accuse him of sounding the death knell of a two-state solution.

Bennett's comments are entirely in line with those that he espoused during January's election campaign but his reiteration of them as minister comes as Washington steps up efforts to revive the troubled peace process.

"The idea that a Palestinian state will be founded within the Land of Israel has reached a dead end," said Bennett, using the biblical term for a greater Israel encompassing the occupied West Bank.

"Never, in the history of Israel, have so many people put so much energy into something so pointless," he said during a meeting of Jewish settlement leaders, in remarks carried by public radio.

"The most important thing for the Land of Israel is to build, and build, and build," said Bennett, who heads the hardline nationalist Jewish Home party.

He added that central to the problem was the reluctance of Israel's leadership to simply insist that the West Bank belongs to "the people of Israel".

"There was never a Palestinian state here, and we were never occupiers, this is our home," said Bennett.

Bennett, who is a past chairman of the settlement leaders' council he was addressing, has consistently opposed the two-state solution backed by key Israeli ally Washington and the rest of the international community.

He says he opted to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition -- whose platform includes a declared aspiration to reach an agreement leading to a Palestinian state -- because he believed the goal was not realistic.

Bennett's remarks come after Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party, denied in an interview earlier this month that the government was serious about reaching a peace agreement that would lead to a two-state solution.

And last week, deputy minister Ofir Akunis told public radio the Palestinians "were not ready for a state".

Following Danon's interview, Netanyahu last Sunday reiterated his commitment to a Palestinian state, saying he and US Secretary of State John Kerry will "try to make progress to find the opening for negotiations with the Palestinians, with the goal of reaching an agreement".

Kerry was to visit the region last week for the fifth time since taking office in February, but postponed, citing the need to focus on the more than two-year conflict in Syria.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat reacted angrily to Bennett's comments.

Several senior Israeli officials had attacked "the internationally endorsed two-state solution on the 1967 borders", he said in a statement.

"These are not isolated events but a reaffirmation of political platforms and radical beliefs," he added.

"Israel has officially declared the death of the two-state solution."

Erakat blamed Netanyahu for matching such statements in policy, and said the "Israeli government is determined to make Kerry's efforts fail."

Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, "called the Israeli government to clarify its position on the economy minister's statements".

"These statements are not only a message to the administration of US President Barack Obama who made constant efforts to revive the peace process, but also a challenge and clear rejection of all efforts to try and save what can be," the Palestinian WAFA news agency quoted him as saying.

In Israel meanwhile, former US president Bill Clinton, speaking at an event in honour of President Shimon Peres, backed the idea of a Palestinian state.

"I'm with Shimon on this, I don't think that in all these years a credible alternative to the creation of a Palestinian state has been presented," he said.


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