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Netanyahu Says Peace Talks With Palestinians Will Be Tough

Netanyahu's (at right in a June 27 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry) remarks appeared to be lowering expectations for the talks after Kerry's announcement that negotiations would resume after a five-year hiatus.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that planned peace talks with the Palestinians will be tough.

Netanyahu's remarks, made at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting on July 21, appeared to be lowering expectations for the talks after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement that negotiations would soon resume after a five-year hiatus.

Netanyahu said he would place Israel's security needs above all.

"The negotiations will not be easy, but we are entering them with integrity and frankness with the hope that this process will be handled responsibly, in a serious and matter-of-fact manner, and I have to say, at least during the first stages, in a discrete manner," Netanyahu said. "It will raise the chance to reach a result. Throughout the whole process, I will insist -- I already insist -- on the security needs and other essential interests of the state of Israel."

After a round of intense shuttle diplomacy, Kerry said on July 19 that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a basis for returning to the peace process, which broke down in 2008.

A statement from Netanyahu's office the following day had said renewing the talks was in Israel's strategic interests. He said achieving a resolution with the Palestinians will also help Israel face challenges from Iran and Syria.

Netayahu told his cabinet on July 21 that any agreement reached would have to be ratified in a national referendum.

"I don't think that such a decision can be made, if agreement is achieved, in a coalition move," Netayahu said. "Such a decision should be brought to the people."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas had previously rejected negotiations with Israel as long as Israel continued to build settlements in the occupied territories.

The two sides are to meet as early as next week to work out final details before actually resuming formal negotiations.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters