JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected demands for Israeli recognition of a Palestinian “right to return” to any part of the sovereign state of Israel, saying the "Palestinian refugee" problem must be solved in the Arab countries where most refugees have lived for several generations.
Netanyahu gave an impassioned 30-minute policy speech to the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University. The speech was not only a statement of political purpose, but also a reply to comments made by U.S. President Barack Obama last week in Cairo urging Israel to help create a Palestinian state.
In a strong and resolute tone, Netanyahu described the dilemma that Israel faces with its Palestinian population, "which Israel does not want to rule" and repeated the promise of previous prime ministers to recognize the right of Palestinian Arabs to self-rule.
Netanyahu also said that he would insist on Palestinians keeping the accord that Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas signed, but which the PLO would not ratify: to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East.
Netanyahu stressed that Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but because it is "our homeland," adding that if Israel had been created only a few years earlier, there would have been no Holocaust.
Netanyahu added another condition - that the Palestinian entity be disarmed and that they not be allowed to forge military accords with other nations, or with the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups, and that they not pose an aerial threat to Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister then used the podium to remind the world that Israel's 2005 pullout from Gaza had allowed Gaza Palestinians to take up positions to fire mortars and missiles into Sderot, Beershava, Ashkelon and Ashdod, placing more than one million Israelis under siege.
Palestinian Authority spokespeople rejected Netanyahu's conditions out of hand.
And Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinian State be demilitarized clashes with President Obama's current allocation of funds and American military personnel to train the new Palestinian army. The American justification is that the Palestinian soldiers are being trained to fight Hamas, but the Palestinian army is now in negotiation with Hamas with the goal of forming a joint command.
It remains unclear whether the Israeli prime minister will go so far as to disarm Palestinians now being trained by the American armed forces.
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