Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Despite stalled negotiations with Palestine, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu still hopes for the conflict to end in a bid to preserve Israel's democratic and Jewish character.

He said he was hopeful for a peace deal with Palestine because a binational state could endanger Israel's Jewish character.

"I want to solve the conflict with the Palestinians because I don't want a binational state," Netanyahu told a rare news conference. "For as long as it depends on me, we will ensure the Jewish and democratic character of Israel."

Netanyahu's statement backed the argument of some of his main political opponents that a pull-out from the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace remained imperative to ensure Israel's democratic and Jewish character.

While Jews currently make up roughly 80 percent of Israel's eight million people, a binational state, which would include the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, would considerably change the country's demography.

One of the main obstacles to peace talks remains the Palestinian demand that Israel halts all settlement constructions in the Occupied Territories. About half a million Israelis live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

"The existence of a Jewish state is not just a matter of separation" from the Palestinians, he said . "It's a matter of security, preserving our basic national interests - and this requires negotiations.

"It is the Palestinians and not us who chose not to hold negotiations over three years," he said. "I hope they change their minds in the coming months. We are ready and prepared to hold negotiations."

His comments came as Israeli security forces said they had started evicting dozens of settlers who illegally took over part of the West Bank city of Hebron.

Netanyahu had earlier asked defence minister Ehud Barak to give the settlers an unspecified period of time to "prove their assertion that they purchased the property legally".