Saturday, May 16, 2009

Netanyahu 'won't back Palestinian state'

May 16, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will refuse on his trip to Washington to back the formation of a Palestinian state, an MP close to the premier said on Saturday, according to national radio.

Netanyahu "will not make a commitment to Washington on the creation of a Palestinian state which would undoubtedly become a 'Hamastan'," Ophir Akunis from Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party was quoted as saying, referring to the Islamic movement Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip and favours armed struggle against Israel.

The hawkish prime minister is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Sunday ahead of his maiden meeting with US President Barack Obama since the two men took office this year.

The key meeting takes place against a backdrop of disagreements over the Middle East conflict and how to deal with Iran's nuclear programme.

While Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to endorse the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, Obama is insisting on a "two-state solution" to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis."

Obama also wants the new Israeli government to halt new building work in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank but Netanyahu has said he wants to expand existing settlements.

The Israeli premier has pledged to unveil his policy for regional peace at the White House meeting, focussed on countering Iran.

Contents are still secret but one Netanyahu aide told AFP that differences between Israel and the United States are "more on the outside" and "Israel does not want to rule the Palestinians" despite Netanyahu's refusal to back a Palestinian state.
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