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Netanyahu Says He’s Paying Attention to Arab Initiative

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June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace talks, citing a 2002 Arab initiative to resolve the conflict between their two peoples.

Netanyahu, 63, addressed Abbas today in a speech to parliament in Jerusalem after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the leaders yesterday to renew peace negotiations. Kerry is next week planning to make his fifth trip to the region since taking office in February.

“We’re paying attention to every initiative -- the Arab initiative has been mentioned -- and we are ready to discuss initiatives that are proposals and not edicts,” the Israeli prime minister said.

The Arab League adopted a plan in 2002 that called for normalized diplomatic relations with Israel in return for a retreat from all land captured in the 1967 Middle East war, which Israel rejected. The league may modify the initiative to accept land swaps between the two sides that would allow Israel to annex land in the West Bank where most Jewish settlers live.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been frozen for almost three years. Abbas has refused to return to negotiations as long as Israel continues construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, a step Netanyahu rejects.

Knesset Message

Addressing Abbas by his nickname from the podium of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, Netanyahu said as he has on other occasions that the two leaders should not miss the current opportunity to come to a peace agreement.

“I want to send a message to Abu Mazen in a language that both of us understand: Give peace a chance,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinians were unimpressed.

“No going back to negotiations or talking about the Arab peace initiative will be discussed as long as settlements continue and there is no recognition of the 1967 borders,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, said in a phone interview. The Israeli government “is the one that’s putting obstacles to any political horizon.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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