Netanyahu sees plan to demilitarize state gaining

By Steve Weizman
Associated Press / June 25, 2009
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PARIS - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after meeting the leaders of France and Italy yesterday, said his bid for a demilitarized Palestinian state is gaining international ground and is the only solution for Mideast peace.

After meeting in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Netanyahu told reporters: “The idea of a demilitarized [Palestinian] state will in course become accepted. If it is not accepted, there will not be an agreement. It cannot be that there is a Palestinian state and the struggle will continue within it.’’

Sarkozy agreed that a “future Palestinian state cannot in any way constitute a threat to the security of Israel.’’ In Rome earlier yesterday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi endorsed Netanyahu’s plan for a future demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a “Jewish state.’’

The issue of Jewish settlements emerged as a thorn in Israel’s discussions with the United States and France.

Sarkozy stood firm in yesterday’s talks, urging Netanyahu to immediately order “a total freeze of settlement activity,’’ according to a statement from the French president’s office. Sarkozy, who calls himself a friend of Israel but whose country has traditionally good relations with the Arab world, urged faster action toward creating a Palestinian state.