JERUSALEM, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on Friday accepted a U.S. invitation to direct peace talks with Palestinians, his office said.
We are coming to the talks with a genuine desire to reach a peace agreement between the two peoples that will protect Israel
's national security interests, foremost of which is security, a statement said.
Reaching a deal would be possible but hard, it added.
Talks had stalled before an Israeli offensive on Palestinian-run Gaza in late 2008.
Israel had said it was ready for direct talks provided there are no preconditions but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
had wanted a clear agenda, which the Jewish state said amounted to preconditions.
The statement said Netanyahu welcomed the U.S. invitation of the United States to begin direct negotiations without preconditions.
Netanyahu has been calling for direct negotiations for the past year and a half, it said. The Israeli leader was pleased with the American clarification that the talks would be without preconditions.
Israel wanted serious and comprehensive talks, it said.
Reaching an agreement is a difficult challenge but is possible.
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told CNN news that Israel does not want talks for the sake of talks.
We know that the issues on the table are tough.. we don't want negotiations just to drag on.
The first thing Israel wanted was to know it going to be accpeted as legitimate part of the region. If Arab states continue to say Israel is illegitimate then I'd ask them what kind of peace they are offering us.
The second core issue was security, he said. Israel, which has been the target of rocket attacks
, would be seeking ironclad agreements on security in peace treaty.
All these issues will be on the table. All these issues are open to negotiation, the Israeli spokesman said.