BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said the Palestinians had to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and prepare to end the conflict with Israel.
"Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state, but for peace to endure, Israel's security must be protected. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all," he said in remarks in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu also elaborated on why Israel opposed the UN vote expected Thursday that would upgrade Palestine's status at the United Nations.
"The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties directly; through valid negotiations between themselves, and not through UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards," he said.
He added: "As for the rights of the Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today: No decision by the UN can break the 4000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel."
Earlier Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Palestine's bid to upgrade its status at the UN "pushes both sides further apart."
In New York, Lieberman said that "Even though the Palestinians are guaranteed a majority of the votes in their favor, in reality they will end up being the greatest losers."
"This move only enhances the dispute and pushes both sides further apart," he said.
But former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he backed the Palestinian bid.
Olmert told The Daily Beast website the "the Palestinian request from the United Nations is congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution. Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it."
He added: "It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. (President Abbas) and (premier) Salam Fayyad need our help. It's time to give it.”