(CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel could accept a peace agreement with a "demilitarized Palestinian state" as its neighbor.
In his first speech accepting the concept of a two-state solution for the Middle East conflict, Netanyahu set rigid conditions for moving forward. Among them: unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish national state with Jerusalem as its capital, and full demilitarization for a Palestinian state -- no army, no rockets or missiles, no control of airspace.
The Thirteenth Tribe – The Real Jewish Heritage
Netanyahu Peace Speech: Israeli Prime Minister Appeals To Arab Leaders For Peace
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed an independent Palestinian state beside Israel for the first time on Sunday, dramatically reversing himself in the face of U.S. pressure but attaching conditions the Palestinians swiftly rejected.
A week after President Barack Obama's address to the Muslim world, Netanyahu said the Palestinian state would have to be unarmed and recognize Israel as the Jewish state _ a condition amounting to Palestinian refugees giving up the goal of returning to Israel.
Netanyahu, in an address seen as his reponse to Obama, refused to heed the U.S. call for an immediate freeze of construction on lands Palestinians claim for their future state. He also said the holy city of Jerusalem must remain under Israeli sovereignty.
Senior Palestinian officials Saeb Erekat said the plan "closed the door" to negotiations.
Still, it was a dramatic transformation for a man raised on a fiercely nationalistic ideology and who has spent a two-decade political career criticizing peace efforts."I call on you, our Palestinian neighbors, and to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority: Let us begin peace negotiations immediately, without preconditions," he said, calling on the wider Arab world to work with him.