JERUSALEM (AP) - With a September deadline looming, Israel's prime minister turned to the Arabic media Thursday for the first time since taking office two years ago in an attempt to lure the Palestinians back to peace talks, saying "everything is on the table."
Benjamin Netanyahu's interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite channel reflects Israeli concerns over Palestinian plans to seek U.N. recognition of their independence this fall. But it also highlights Netanyahu's new strategy of engaging directly with the Arab public.
Netanyahu has fielded questions from Arabs before on YouTube and even made a recorded plea to Arab viewers to submit questions. But the face-to-face Al-Arabiya interview is his first of its kind. Netanyahu's office called the move "the beginning of a new era" and promised more such interviews in the near future.
The interview, which aired Thursday evening, comes as Israel is scrambling to counter the Palestinian U.N. initiative this fall. Israel fiercely opposes the move, saying a Palestinian state should be formed through negotiations and not by unilateral steps.
Peace negotiations have been stalled since 2008, and the Palestinians have refused to negotiate while Israel continues to build homes in Jewish settlements.
Although the vote will be largely symbolic, the Palestinians hope to isolate Israel and put pressure on it to make concessions.
In the interview, Netanyahu says he is willing to negotiate anywhere and with anyone who accepts Israel's right to exist.
"Everything is on the table. But we need to get to the table," Netanyahu said.
"I'm prepared to negotiate with President Abbas directly for peace between our two peoples right now. We can do it here in my home in Jerusalem, we can do it in Ramallah, we can do it anywhere," he said.
Netanyahu said he realized he would have to make "difficult compromises for peace," but he offered few new details about his plans.