"It's time to grapple head-on with the issues and negotiate," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about the peace process with the Palestinians in a Washington Post interview published on Friday.
"We should enter immediately into negotiations without preconditions," Netanyahu said. "That's been my view for the last four years, and I hope it becomes the Palestinian view."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan this week, marking his fifth visit to the region since February as he tries to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"If Secretary Kerry, whose efforts we support, were to pitch a tent halfway between here and Ramallah -- that's 15 minutes away driving time -- I'm in it, I'm in the tent," Netanyahu said.
"And I'm committed to stay in the tent and negotiate for as long as it takes to work out a solution of peace and security between us and the Palestinians.
"Now there are many things that I need to successfully close a deal, but I don't ask them of Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] in advance.
"We'll have to have an arrangement that assures our security, that tells us what's on the other side in a Palestinian state. Is it another Iranian client-state that is committed to our destruction? That arms itself with missiles and rockets? Or is it something that actually changes the climate, that teaches its people and its children to live in peace with us and is genuinely demilitarized?
"These are questions that cannot be resolved before we enter the tent. They'll have to be resolved in order for us to leave the tent with an agreement. But I don't place any of our conditions and our demands in advance of the negotiations, and I hope the Palestinians don't either.
"I think placing preconditions before negotiations is the quickest way to undermine peace. That's what has been done in the past four years and we've gotten nowhere. It's time to look at a different course. It's time to grapple head-on with the issues and negotiate. You can't end negotiations unless you begin them. And you can't begin them if you continually negotiate about the terms to begin negotiations."
Asked about the Palestinian demand for a freeze in Israeli settlement construction in Judea and Samaria, Netanyahu said: "The problem isn't the settlements. That's an issue that will have to be solved in negotiations. But what's the real reason this conflict has not been solved and had been going on for years before we had a single settlement? And after we left Gaza and tore up the settlements, the conflict continued.
"The real reason is the persistent refusal [of the Palestinians] to recognize a sovereign Jewish state in any boundary. That was and remains the core of this conflict. To solve this, the Palestinians will have to recognize the Jewish state just as we recognize a Palestinian state. Both peoples, both nations, deserve a nation-state of their own."
The Washington Post also conducted interviews with Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett.
"I'm totally supportive of going back into negotiations on the basis of the two-state solution," Lapid said. "For me, there's no other game in town but the two-state solution. The Palestinians must have their own country, and the Israelis must understand that the Palestinians should have their own country. I'm going to push for this as hard as I can because I think this is really important for Israel. I'm not doing this because I'm in love with the Palestinians. I'm doing this because I think it's in Israel's best interests to have what I call an honest divorce."
Lapid expressed support for pulling out of settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
"I think that eventually we will have no other option but to pull lots of settlements out of the West Bank," Lapid said. "What we call the blocs will stay, such as Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim and Gush Etzion, but basically, of course, if you have a two-state solution, you will pull settlements out of the West Bank. There is no other option."
Asked about Kerry's prospects for success, Lapid said, "I hear people saying, 'We've been there a hundred times.' But let me tell you something: We can never stop trying. It will happen. There's going to be a moment when both sides are going to all of a sudden be ready, and we have to be there when this moment happens."
Unsurprisingly, Bennett advocated a different view on the peace process. He suggested that Israel annex 60 percent of Judea and Samaria and give the Palestinians sovereignty in the remaining area.
"I can tell you that Netanyahu is serious about [a two-state solution]," Bennett said.
"He means it. I also understand that this government is proceeding down this approach, and I'm not going to stop it. I'm not going to veto it. I'm not going to do anything to stop the negotiations because this government wants to progress in that direction.
"I think talking is fine. I am very skeptical that it will lead to anything. At the end of the day, at the critical moment, every Palestinian leader balks. I'm very skeptical that [Abbas] will be willing to accept Israel as a Jewish state."
Kerry insists his quiet diplomacy is making headway, a claim that only he, Netanyahu and Abbas truly can substantiate because most of the discussions are one-on-one. Few American officials seem to know what is going on because they say Kerry rarely briefs even the most experienced U.S. negotiators in the region on his talks.
Since U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel in March, Kerry has received almost no public displays of support from the president, with the White House appearing reluctant to stake political capital on an endeavor that so often has proved a disappointment.
Some U.S. officials have scoffed at the notion that Kerry is getting anywhere, though they allow that the White House has given him until roughly September to produce a resumption of negotiations.
Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, praised Kerry's efforts thus far.
"None of these are issues that you can solve in a few months," Rhodes said. "The fact that he is taking these on with the energy he has is a great asset to the administration. These are the toughest challenges we have."