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_Free Weekly Report_

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Israel - PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today:

"I welcome the US invitation to start direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority without preconditions. Since the Government's inauguration nearly a year and a half ago I have been calling for these direct talks. The achievement of a peace agreement between us and the Palestinian Authority is a difficult thing, but it is possible.

We are coming to talks from a real desire to achieve a peace agreement between the two peoples, while safeguarding Israel's national interests, foremostly security. I know that there is a considerable skepticism after 17 years having passed since the beginning of the Oslo process.

It is possible to understand why this doubtfulness exists. We are seeking to surprise the critics and the skeptics, but in order to do this we need a real partner on the Palestinian side. It is possible to succeed with a hand extended in peace, but only if someone on the other likewise extends one.

If we discover that we have a real partner on the Palestinian side, sincere and serious in negotiations, negotiations which will require both sides to take necessary measures, not only the Israeli side but also the Palestinian side, if we discover we have such a partner, we will be able to shortly reach a historic peace agreement between the two peoples.

This agreement will be based on three initial components: First of all, on real and sustainable security arrangements on the ground; secondly, upon recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, and this means that the solution of a problem like the demand for return will be realized in the territory of the Palestinian state; and the third component, the end to the conflict. We are discussing a peace agreement between Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state.

This state, if it should be established after this process, is due to end the conflict and not to be a façade for its continuation by other means.

Security, recognition of the national state of the Jewish People and the end of the conflict – these are the three components that will ensure us a real and lasting peace agreement.

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