PM: Peace plan possible by end of '11
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday that all core issues could be discussed in direct negotiations, and that if it were up to him, a peace deal with the Palestinians could be signed by the end of 2011.
"If it's up to me, we'll have an agreement," Netanyahu said.
PM: Talks must begin right away
Coalition strengthened by Netanyahu-Obama meeting
Obama identifies with Jewish struggle
But he stressed that an accord would require a willing and able partner in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. While he expressed a reluctance to criticize Abbas, Netanyahu said, "I tend to confound the critics and the skeptics, but I need a partner. You can't go out on a trapeze, hold out your hand and not have a partner on the other side."
Obama insists previous Netanyahu meeting was 'terrific'
Obama's reception of Netanyahu was markedly different from their last meeting, which was held without photographers present or a joint statement.
But during his interview, Obama said that the earlier meeting had been badly misrepresented.
Trust must be built so both sides will not be 'paranoid'
One result of the direct talks, he said, would be to build trust between the sides so they would not be "so jumpy or paranoid about every single move being made, whether it is being related to Jerusalem, or any other issues that have to be dealt with."
Obama points to Emanuel, Axelrod as proof that he supports Israel, Jews
Asked about the lack of trust many Israelis had in him and his commitment to Israel, Obama said this was ironic, considering that "I've got a chief of staff named Rahm Israel Emanuel, and my top political adviser [David Axelrod] is somebody who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors."
Obama is convinced Israel will not make a unilateral strike on Iran
Netanyahu: Israel's biggest challenges are a nuclear Iran and lasting peace
"The Jews will no longer be passive victims of history," he said to the approval of the gathered crowd. "We are now actors on the stage of history. We now chart our own collective destiny."
In addition, he responded to charges of Israeli impropriety in the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident.
"For 2,000 years, the Jews were the perfect victims," he said. "They may be perfectly moral, but they're still victims.The purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives. The standard that must be applied to Israel is not perfection, but the standard applied to any other country faced with similar circumstances."