by Xinhua writer Xu Gang
JERUSALEM, May 5 (Xinhua) -- While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his country is prepared to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians without any preconditions, the Palestinians do not seem to be much encouraged by his words.
On Monday night, Netanyahu, who spoke from Israel via satellite to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington, said that "We are prepared to resume peace negotiations without any delay, without any preconditions. The sooner, the better."
The prime minister stressed the importance of peace, declaring that "We want peace with the Arab world. We also want peace with the Palestinians."
"With the help of (U.S. President Barack) Obama and (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas, we can defy the skeptics, we can surprise the world," added Netanyahu.
However, he insisted that "the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state," something the Palestinians have rejected.
Netanyahu, who addressed thousands of Congressmen, diplomats and pro-Israel activists, was speaking ahead of his own visit to Washington later in the month.
Since coming into office in late March, his largely right-wing government has struck a different tone from the United States when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, leading some to conclude that the United States and Israel are on a collision course on the issue.
Notably, Netanyahu has declined to publicly support a Palestinian state, a major goal of the Obama administration.
In his speech to AIPAC, Netanyahu did not refer to a two-state solution, but called for working on three tracks with the Palestinians.
"The fresh approach that I suggest is pursuing a triple track toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians: a political track, a security track and economic track," said the prime minister.
The first track, he said, would be the resumption of negotiations, while the economic track would constitute trying to improve the situation and prosperity of the Palestinians on the ground.
On security, the prime minister said that he would never compromise Israelis' safety, but that he wanted to rush ahead with the work of U.S. General Keith Dayton to train Palestinian forces in the West Bank in order to bolster Palestinian security forces.
In response to Netanyahu's remarks over peace, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Tuesday said his approach to peace was insufficient, urging Israel to accept the two-state solution.
"This is not enough," said Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian peace negotiator, adding that "We need an Israeli recognition of the two-state solution and stopping of settlement activities."
Erekat wondered if Netanyahu's remarks meant that he was ready to negotiate issues like Jerusalem, borders, refugees and the settlements.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Hamas movement said Netanyahu's statements were "a misleading to the public opinion and an attempt to cover Israel's war crimes."
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a press statement that "Netanyahu's remarks were a new deception of the public opinion and an attempt to escape from justice out of Israel's war crimes."
"Netanyahu wants to use the peace talks as a cover for his project that aims to establish the Israeli state on the rubbles of the Palestinian one," Barhoum added.