x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Netanyahu 'may endorse' Palestinian state

The Israeli prime minister might endorse Palestinian statehood when he visits the US this week, his defence minister says.

JERUSALEM // On the eve of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's crucial visit to Washington, his defence minister suggested the Israeli leader might endorse a Palestinian state when he meets with President Barack Obama. That would be a significant shift for Mr Netanyahu, who has made clear in the past that he does not think the Palestinians are ready to rule themselves. But that position has put him at odds with long-standing US policy that supports Palestinian statehood as the cornerstone of Middle East peace efforts. Senior White House officials said Mr Obama's meeting with Mr Netanyahu tomorrow is "part of his commitment that he's made since day one of the administration to pursue comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians."

The Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak said yesterday that he thought an agreement with the Palestinians could be achieved within three years. "I think and believe that Netanyahu will tell Obama this government is prepared to go for a political process that will result in two peoples living side by side in peace and mutual respect," Mr Barak told Channel 2 TV. However, he did not use the word "state", leaving open other options for Mr Netanyahu. After the Israeli prime minister made a lightning visit to Jordan on Thursday to meet with the king, a senior Jordanian government official said Mr Netanyahu is likely to endorse a two-state solution when he meets Mr Obama.

When they meet, the two allies will be grappling with diverging policies on how to approach the Middle East conflict. They do not see eye-to-eye on the Palestinian issue or on the Obama administration's efforts to open a dialogue with Israel's arch foes, Syria and Iran. * AP