UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said here on Friday that it is Palestine's inability to accept a Jewish state, not Israel's settlement program, as Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas has stated, that has obstructed peace in the Middle East.
"The core of the conflict is not the settlements," said Netanyahu. "The settlements are a result of the conflict. The settlements have to be--it's an issue that has to be addressed and resolved in the course of negotiations. But the core of the conflict has always been and unfortunately remains the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border."
The Israeli prime minister's statements came as he addressed the high-level plenary general debate at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly. His speech came a short time after Abbas made an address to the assembly reporting that he had submitted a Palestinian application for UN member statehood to UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.
Israel has opposed the statehood proposal, saying that Palestine must settle its outstanding issues with Israel on a bilateral level before pursuing UN statehood. Abbas has refuted this, saying that seeking statehood at the UN in no way cancels out bilateral peace talks.
"The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel, and then get their state," said Netanyahu. "But I also want to tell you this. After such a peace agreement is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. We will be the first."
Direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel were suspended in Oct. 2010, after Israel failed to renew a ban on settlement building in the West Bank, which prompted Palestine to leave the talks.
Netanyahu said that Israel has made concessions for peace, like their withdrawal of all settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
"You remember that the entire world applauded," said the prime minister. "They applauded our withdrawal as an act of great statesmanship. It was a bold act of peace. But ladies and gentlemen, we didn't get peace. We got war. We got Iran, which through its proxy Hamas promptly kicked out the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority collapsed in a day -- in one day."
Since the Hamas takeover, Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu told the assembly that Israel is willing to make concessions.
"We just don't want the Palestinians to try to change the Jewish character of our state," he said. "We don't want to give up -- we want them to give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians."
Netanyahu proposed that Israel and Palestine could even meet in New York on Friday.
"We've both just flown thousands of miles to New York," he said of himself and Abbas. "Now we're in the same city. We're in the same building. So let's meet here today in the United Nations. Who's there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations?"
He said that any conversation with Abbas should be open and honest.
"Let's listen to one another," he said. "Let's do as we say in the Middle East: Let's talk 'doogri.'That means straightforward. I'll tell you my needs and concerns. You'll tell me yours. And with God's help we'll find the common ground of peace."
Special Report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts