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Israel PM ready to go to Ramallah for negotiations

Jan. 30, 2012 2:08 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 1, 2012 5:49 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed Monday he is ready to go to Ramallah to meet President Abbas and open negotiations, in response to questions posed by Ma'an in an online dialogue.

"We are completely serious about talks with the Palestinians, but unfortunately the Palestinian side refuses," he said in the live-chat in Arabic on his official Facebook page.

"Advancing negotiations is the only way towards peace," he said.

PLO leaders are set to meet Monday to discuss their next steps after a Quartet deadline for the sides to resume negotiations passed without agreement.

PLO officials held five rounds of exploratory talks with Israeli representatives in January, but insist they cannot progress to direct negotiations until Israel halts settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

"I want to talk with the Palestinians in order to open channels at all levels. This is in the Palestinians and the Arabs interest," Netanyahu said Monday in the online forum.

"Israel can help develop the region economically, and wants to see a prosperous future for all countries in the region.

"I feel disappointed because peace treaties have not led to economic boom for all. Economy is the outcome of relationships, and economic peace isn’t an alternative to political peace, but it helps."

In response to Ma'an's question about what he thinks Palestinians should do, Netanyahu responded: "the Palestinian president should have continued with talks. This is what the international community wants both sides to do."

Asked by other journalists about the Arab Spring, the Israeli premier said he supports the building of democracies in the Arab World.

"There are misconceptions about Israel, and many Arabs do not know that the Arabs living in Israel serve in the government, in the parliament and enjoy complete rights," he added.

"The impression that Israel does not want peace is incorrect. We know the value of peace, and one of the obstacles is the misconception about Israel’s attitude to peace."

Questioned about Iran, Netanyahu commented: "Iran is a threat to peace, to Israel, to the Arab countries, to the Middle East and to the whole world. They are arming terrorist organizations while they develop their nuclear power seeking to control the Middle East and the whole world."
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