Netanyahu Won’t Back Palestinian State in US: MP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will refuse on his trip to Washington to back the formation of a Palestinian state, an MP close to the premier said Saturday, according to Israeli national radio.

"Netanyahu will not make a commitment to Washington on the creation of a Palestinian state which would undoubtedly become a ‘Hamastan’," Ophir Akunis from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was quoted as saying, referring to the Islamic movement Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip.

The hawkish prime minister is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Sunday ahead of his maiden meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama since the two men took office this year.

The key meeting will take place against a backdrop of disagreements over the Middle East conflict and how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

While Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to endorse the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, Obama is insisting on a "two-state solution" to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Obama also wants the new Israeli government to halt new building work in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank but Netanyahu has said he wants to expand existing settlements.

The Israeli premier has pledged to unveil his policy for regional peace at the White House meeting, focused on countering Iran.

Contents are still secret but one Netanyahu aide told AFP that differences between Israel and the United States are "more on the outside" and "Israel does not want to rule the Palestinians" despite Netanyahu’s refusal to back a Palestinian state.
 
"Insane" Move

Meanwhile Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called any possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities an "insane" move in a magazine interview released on Saturday.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said earlier this month other options remained open if U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran failed to halt its nuclear program. Peres did not say what the other options might be but they are generally understood to include military action.

"It would be completely insane to attack Iran," ElBaradei said. "That would turn the region into one big fireball, and the Iranians would immediately start building the bomb — and they could count on the support of the entire Islamic world," ElBaradei told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.

ELBaradei also urged Iran to engage with the U.S.

U.S. President Barack Obama is actively seeking to engage Iran on a series of issues, from its nuclear program to Afghanistan.

"I advise my Iranian negotiating partners: grasp the hand that Obama is extending to you," Asked what he meant exactly, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog added: "I think Freeze for Freeze is the next realistic step. The Iranians would install no more centrifuges, the West would forego further sanction measures. During this time, there would be intensive negotiations."

He referred to the thousands of centrifuges Iran has installed, and is adding to, in order to enrich uranium.

Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear reactors or, if purified to a much higher degree, in an atomic bomb, although Iran denies it has any such intention.

(Agencies)

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