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Israeli PM defends Jewish settlements in hawkish speech

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the building of Jewish settlements in one of his most hawkish speeches on Sunday night at the Bar Ilan University, located on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

The speech which included comments on the Iranian nuclear plan and the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and its resolution was one of the most aggressive given by Netanyahu.

He directed his words to a mainly right-wing audience, including members of the parliament, who are displeased with Israel's negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Talks between the two sides resumed in Washington in late July.

"The Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as the Jewish state," Netanyahu said on Sunday evening. "When people ask about the root of the conflict they talk about the occupation, the settlements and so on ...I believe the conflict started in 1921, on the day in which Arabs attacked an immigrants home in Jaffa," Netanyahu said.

He also specified other cases of animosity between the two people prior to the establishment of Israel.

The prime minister said that the Israeli government "is willing to bring an end to the conflict with the Palestinians and achieve real security," but did not give any other comments about the current negotiations or announced any diplomatic outline.

Israeli and Palestinians negotiators are in the midst of discussions to bring about an end to a decades-long conflict, to the ire of many of Netanyahu's right-wing government and parliament members.

The talks also revolve around land swaps, of Palestinian lands Israel annexed in the Mideast War of 1967. The settlements have been one of the biggest roots of dispute between Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community.

The majority of Netanyahu's speech focused on the Iranian nuclear program and also bore a hawkish tone.

He again warned that Iran is aiming to take over the Middle East and destroy Israel, saying these are "facts" rather than " speculations."

He also said that the United States and Israel "see eye-to-eye" regarding the Iranian nuclear program, adding that only when the Iranians dismantle their nuclear capabilities will Israel negotiate about ending the sanctions.

Netanyahu returned from a trip to the United States on Friday, where he had campaigned against Iran's overtures towards the US, denouncing a nuclear Iran and the danger he said it poses to Israel.

His comments were dismissed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as well as by members of his opposition in the Israeli parliament who spoke against Netanyahu's pessimistic outlook.
 

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