Netanyahu hits back at criticisms of US move

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Dec 10, 2017.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Dec 10, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Israeli leader urges Palestinians to accept 'reality', offers to sit with Abbas for talks

JERUSALEM • A defiant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at criticisms of the United States' recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, even as the Muslim world stepped up condemnation of the move.

"The sooner Palestinians come to grips with the reality that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, the sooner there will be peace," Mr Netanyahu said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris after talks yesterday.

"I offer to (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas to sit and negotiate peace, nothing could be simpler," said the Israeli leader.

He also said he would not take any lectures from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the latter severely criticised Israel, calling it an "invader" and a "terror state".

Mr Netanyahu's comments came hours after Arab League foreign ministers urged the US to abandon its decision on Jerusalem and said the move would spur violence throughout the region.

"The decision has no legal effect... It deepens tension, ignites anger and threatens to plunge the region into more violence and chaos," the Arab League said yesterday after hours of meetings that began on Saturday evening.

It said it would seek a United Nations Security Council resolution rejecting the US move. Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in a 1967 war, to be occupied territory and say the status of the city should be decided at future Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Israel says that all of Jerusalem is its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

In a statement before talks with Mr Macron, which was to be followed by a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels, Mr Netanyahu had denounced "incitement" against Jews.

"I hear (from Europe) voices of condemnation over President (Donald) Trump's historic announcement, but I have not heard any condemnation for the rocket firing against Israel that has come (after the announcement) and the awful incitement against us."

He was referring to what the Israeli military described yesterday as a "significant" cross-border attack tunnel dug by the Gaza Strip's dominant Islamist group, Hamas.

Mr Macron said he disapproved of the US move, but denounced all threats to Israeli security.

Four days of street protests in the Palestinian territories over the US President's announcement on Wednesday have largely died down but sporadic violence continued. A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard at Jerusalem's main bus station yesterday, police said.

Protests continued elsewhere in the Muslim world, including in the Lebanese capital of Beirut and Indonesia's capital Jakarta.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2017, with the headline 'Netanyahu hits back at criticisms of US move'. Print Edition | Subscribe