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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Netanyahu in Speech Vows to Pursue Peace

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he had made plans with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan to meet soon and promised the U.S. president to go on searching for Middle East peace.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said Washington would work with a Netanyahu government to ensure that Israel also kept its peace promises to the Palestinians.

The right-wing Likud leader scrambled to form a coalition with religious and centrist parties after ousting Prime Minister Shimon Peres in an election last Wednesday.

He has until mid-July to form a government but said he did not know how long it would take.

Netanyahu, 46, told his Likud party faction in parliament he had spoken by telephone with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein, and "we agreed to meet as soon as possible" once a government is formed.

Both countries have signed peace treaties with Israel.

In Cairo, Mubarak said Netanyahu's victory speech Sunday "did not inspire optimism." Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, appearing at a news conference with Mubarak, said he felt peacemaking was not "going in a positive direction."

Netanyahu's refusal to swap occupied land for peace has Israel's Arab peace partners worried about the prospects for a Middle East settlement. In the victory speech, Netanyahu called on Israel's Arab neighbors to "join the circle of peace."

But he did not mention peace with Syria and Lebanon or give any sign he would be willing to withdraw from Arab territory.

On Monday, Netanyahu said he had spoken to U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose administration has brokered Middle East peace moves.

"I made clear to him that we of course will continue the search for peace, the negotiations for peace and the contacts for peace with all of our neighbors," Netanyahu said.

He said his political adviser Dore Gold had called PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's chief peace negotiator Abu Mazen. "The Arab states, not to speak of the Western states, understand that the public in Israel determined that there will be a continuation of the peace process based on our policy, and people accept that," Netanyahu said.

Indyk said in remarks broadcast by Israel Radio on Monday that Netanyahu would have to confront the issue of Hebron, the last of seven Palestinian West Bank cities scheduled for an Israeli troop redeployment.

Netanyahu had said during a hard-fought campaign that he opposed leaving the city holy to Jews and Moslems alike. Peres' cabinet said in a statement Sunday that Netanyahu must complete the pullback around mid-June.

In Hebron itself, a city of more than 100,000 Palestinians and 400 Jewish settlers, Palestinian residents expressed anger that the promised withdrawal, already postponed from March, had yet to be carried out.

?President Boris Yeltsin sent congratulations to Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory and Russia said Saturday it was counting on the new Israeli prime minister to continue the Middle East peace process, Reuters reported.

Interfax quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Moscow was counting on cooperation with Netanyahu "in the context of peacemaking efforts in the region and in the search for constructive solutions to the problems of the Middle East."

The spokesman said: "As co-sponsor of the Middle East peace settlement, Russia intends to continue to work for the achievement of a historic peace between the Arabs and Israel and for further progress in the peace process."