Labor Party member of Knesset, Yitzhak Herzog, stated that he recently met with a number of American government officials close to president Barack Obama. They allegedly told him that they are angry with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, due to his rejection to resume peace talks with the Palestinians. On Thursday, Herzog told Israeli paper, Yedioth Aharonoth, that he is worried about what he called “the declining relations between Israel and the United States”, and added that the current situation is that “U.S. officials do not even want to hear the name of Netanyahu”. Officials are apparently talking about Netanyahu “in a hostile manner”.

He added that the officials told him that, following his visit to Washington last month, Netanyahu left “a burnt land” behind him. Further, it was suggested that his speech in Washington ‘disregarded facts’ and insulted Obama and his advisers.

Following his May 20 speech in Washington, Obama called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks based on Israel’s withdrawal to the borders that existed before the June 4, 1967 war, with land swaps in certain areas.

But Netanyahu told Obama that he will not negotiate on such a basis, and that Israel will keep large areas in the occupied West Bank, specifically Jerusalem and the Jordan valley, under Israeli control at all times.

Herzog said that the way Netanyahu is acting, and the way he is trying to gather international support to foil the declaration of a Palestinian state at the UN, is an indication of a “defeated leader”. He added that this attitude will not serve Israeli interests.

Herzog stated that the Israeli government must recognize a Palestinian state, and added that talks on border and other main issues should start now.

The leader of the Israeli opposition, Tzipi Livni, strongly criticized Netanyahu during his Thursday speech at the Knesset, and held him responsible for the failure in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“Netanyahu is dragging Israel into a deep ditch”, Livni said, “His government became a front that rejects all proposed initiatives”.

During his Knesset speech on Thursday, Netanyahu reiterated his demands that the Palestinians must first recognize Israel as a Jewish State, and claimed, “the conflict is still ongoing due to the Palestinian rejection to do so”.

He also said Palestinian refugees living in exile should be settled abroad and should not be allowed into their homeland.

Netanyahu also claimed that Jerusalem should always be the united capital of Israel, settlement blocs must remain part of Israel, and that the future Palestinian “state” must be a demilitarized entity.