(AFP) – Jun 1, 2009
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly rejected on Monday US calls to freeze Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
"We can't freeze life in the settlements," Netanyahu said, according to a senior official in the premier's office.
"There are reasonable demands and unreasonable demands. The fate of the settlements will be decided in a final status agreement," he was quoted as telling parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee.
He stressed that while the government would not halt expansion within existing settlements, it will not build new settlements and will dismantle outposts which Israel considers unlawful.
"On the issue of construction within settlements we still haven't reached an understanding with the Americans," Netanyahu said.
At least four Palestinians were wounded on Monday in attacks by Jewish settlers angered at the possibility the state may dismantle outposts in the West Bank, medics and witnesses said.
Netanyahu also said his government was willing to resume peace talks with the Palestinians immediately "not only on economic and security issues but on diplomatic questions."
He said Israel was ready to hold the talks without preconditions.
"I'm ready to give them all the sovereign powers to rule themselves except for those that will put our security in danger," he said, adding: "We are not ready for them to have an army or to be able make alliances with Iran."
"Israel should be recognised as the state of the Jewish people at the end of the process," he said.
He also expressed support for US calls to boost peace hopes by normalising relations between Arab states and Israel, saying: "The Arab states can take steps towards normalisation with Israel by forging trade ties and diplomatic ties and holding meetings with Israelis."
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