By JOSEF FEDERMAN
JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister on Sunday accused the international community of being too soft on the Palestinians, saying the world must understand that peace is a “two-way street.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his comments in the wake of heavy international criticism for plans to build thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. During a swing through the region last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the construction, planned in occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians, raised questions about Israel’s seriousness about peace.
In an address to Jewish leaders from North America, Netanyahu said that it was time for the world to turn a critical eye on the Palestinians.
“It cannot be that the Palestinians are forever pampered by the international community,” he said.
He claimed the world had ignored Palestinian incitement and a refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, and said the world has accepted half-hearted Palestinian attempts to fight violence.
“It’s time that the international community, certainly the serious members of the international community, understand this is a two-way street, because peace is not a one-way street and it won’t be,” he said.
Mohammed Ishtayeh, a Palestinian peace negotiator, said accepting Israel’s demand to be recognized as the Jewish homeland would undermine the rights of Israel’s Arab minority as well as claims of Palestinian refugees to lost properties in what is now Israel.
He said Israel has not made similar demands of other parties and accused Israel of trying ‘to complicate the negotiating track.’
Under heavy U.S. pressure, Israel and the Palestinians agreed in July to resume peace talks for the first time in nearly five years.
While they have set an April target date for reaching a peace agreement, there has been no visible progress.
The Palestinians, along with the U.S. and the rest of the international community, object to settlement construction. They say that settling Jews in lands where the Palestinians want to establish their state is a sign of bad faith. More than 500,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians.
With both sides skeptical about prospects for peace, some voices in Israel have begun to call for an interim agreement.
The Palestinians reject an interim deal that falls short of their aspirations, fearing it will become permanent.
Kerry has said he remains committed to reaching a full agreement and currently has no intention to seek an interim deal.