Palestinians must Recognise Israel as Jewish state, says PM
* From: AP
* September 13, 2010 12:17AM
ISRAEL'S Prime minister touched a raw nerve with the Palestinians last
night by demanding they recognise Israel as a Jewish state - something
they have long rejected.
Benjamin Netanyahu insists such recognition must be the foundation for
peace and that he regrets that the Palestinians have not yet agreed.
"The foundation of the state of Israel is that it is the nation-state
of the Jewish people," Mr Netanyahu said at the start of the Israeli
Cabinet's weekly meeting.
"That is the real basis of the end of demands from the state of Israel
and the end of the conflict between the two peoples."
Mr Netanyahu has made recognition of Israel's Jewish character a
central demand, suggesting the Palestinians' failure to do so means
they have not come to terms with Israel's existence.
Veteran Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said Israel was using this
demand as a pretext to withhold full rights from Palestinian citizens
of Israel and to deny the right of return to Palestinian refugees from
the war surrounding Israel's 1948 independence.
Israel's Arab minority, who make up about 20 per cent of the
population, enjoy full citizenship rights but have long suffered from
discrimination in jobs, housing and other areas.
"We don't deny that that there is a majority of Jews in Israel," Mr
"But we deny their requirement that we recognise that Jewishness when
there are a million and a half Palestinian Christians and Muslims who
are citizens of Israel today."
This demand could come up again when Netanyahu meets tomorrow with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for their first meeting in the
region since talks were officially launched in Washington last week.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former senator George
Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the region, will be
joining that meeting at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik,
before moving to Jerusalem for a second day of talks on Wednesday.
In a cordial first round at the White House, the two leaders had
promised to keep meeting at regular intervals, with the aim of
hammering out the broad outlines of an agreement within a year.
The most immediate obstacle is the Palestinian negotiating team's
demand that Israel extend a curb on new construction in Jewish West
Bank settlements, due to expire on September 26.
Mr Netanyahu has not tipped his hand, but he faces conflicting
pressures because many of his political allies object to extending the
slowdown, which they only agreed to under intense US pressure.
Mr Obama said on Friday that he had urged the Israeli leader to stretch
the slowdown as long as talks are productive.
Mr Netanyahu's office refused to comment on Obama's calls.