Palestine - news and discussions Netanyahu Agrees to Palestinian State in Move Welcomed by U.S. By Tal Barak Harif and Gwen Ackerman June 14 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time agreed to a Palestinian state, as long as it is demilitarized and accepts Israel as a Jewish homeland. The U.S. called the statement an “important step forward.” Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Netanyahu’s conditional acceptance of statehood, saying it would “not lead to a just and comprehensive peace.” “If the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, we will be ready for a real peace agreement leading to a demilitarized Palestinian state side-by-side with a Jewish state,” Netanyahu said at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv. Netanyahu’s address came 10 days after President Barack Obama, in an address to the Muslim world, said the creation of a Palestinian state was the “only resolution” for the Arab- Israeli conflict and that Israel must stop all settlement construction. “This is a formulation in wording that will probably enable him to walk that narrow wire between the expectations of the U.S., which wanted him to support a Palestinian state, and his party and coalition members that are against it,” said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. Obama “welcomes the important step forward in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in an e-mailed statement. “The president is committed to two states, a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine, in the historic homeland of both peoples.” Settlement Construction Netanyahu said that while no new settlements would be built, Jewish settlers had the right to a “normal life.” He has said he will not stop construction necessary for the natural population growth of existing settlements. Saeb Erakat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said Netanyahu’s remarks were “deceptive.” Erakat said the speech fell short “in every single one of the benchmarks required of Israel in line with international law and existing agreements.” Netanyahu’s address comes a day after Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second presidential term, an electoral victory that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said increased the need for the international community to block Iran’s nuclear program and its support of terror groups. Nuclear Weapons “The biggest threat to Israel in the Middle East and to all of humanity is the meeting between extremist Islam and nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. Beyond making his first direct, though conditional, endorsement of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu appeared to stick to former positions on peace talks while endorsing Obama’s vision of a regional agreement. Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Netanyahu, said it was the first time the prime minister made such a comment “either directly or indirectly” on a Palestinian state. The fate of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek as the capital of their state and over which Israel has imposed its rule in a move never internationally recognized, was not up for negotiation, Netanyahu said. The plight of Palestinian refugees, who fled their homes in the 1948 and 1967 Middle East wars, will not be resolved inside Israel’s borders, he added. And the demilitarization of the Palestinian state Netanyahu envisions as part of a final peace settlement must be guaranteed by the international community. “To achieve peace we must ensure that Palestinians can’t bring in rockets and missiles, control air space or forge alliances with Iran or Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said.