Benjamin Netanyahu: Only a united Israel can help Palestine bring peace to this region

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The Independent Online

Hamas turned Gaza into hell on Earth, but Judea and Samaria can be transformed. Maybe not into paradise, but into one of the world's most prosperous economies. In absolute terms, and not just relative growth rates.

How? Why is the Palestinian economy, in today's global economic environment, experiencing growth of 7 per cent, 8 per cent, 9 per cent, or maybe even higher? How much would it have grown if we hadn't removed those checkpoints and barriers? From day one, we told the Palestinians, the Americans, the Europeans, the Russians and the entire world that negotiations have to start right away. I think a call was even issued from right here, on the Knesset podium, to the Palestinian Authority. And it would be an understatement to say that we've never received a response.

We also took other steps just recently. The US Secretary of State said they were unprecedented. It's true. But in your hearts, you all know the truth that from day one, we demonstrated a real willingness – reflecting the unified will of the people – to jumpstart the peace negotiations. And I tell you that, even if not everyone agrees, we still have a real desire to complete those negotiations based on the principles I talked about earlier.

What have we got from the other side? The Goldstone Report, complaints about building in Gilo and all kinds of unprecedented and unjustified preconditions. Let me tell you where it all came from. From expectations that this government could be branded and blamed for everything, despite these facts that I've shared with you and that you know are true. And from the belief that conflict and criticism can take the place of the full agreement that we really need.

I'm here to tell you that internal cohesion is the most important thing that will allow us to achieve two tasks: defending ourselves against attacks on our right to self-defence and ensuring that the Palestinian Authority comes to the negotiating table, because we all know the facts. This is why I say that we need to fight side by side, to counter the false allegations against the State of Israel, just like we've done in the past. When we take real, unprecedented measures to resume the political process, we have to work together.

This is an extract from Israeli Prime Minister's speech to a special session of the Knesset convened yesterday