Mideast: Abbas refuses to recognise Israel as Jewish state

Ramallah, 27 April (AKI) - Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Monday dismissed calls by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. He also said a halt to Israel's continuing expansion of illegal Jewish settlements inside the West Bank was a prerequisite for resuming peace talks.

"A Jewish state, what is that supposed to mean?," said Abbas, quoted by Israeli media. "You can call yourselves as you like, but I don't accept it and I say so publicly."

He also said it was not his job to define or name the Israeli state.

"Name yourself, it's not my business. Name yourself the Hebrew Socialist Republic. All I know is that there is the state of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimetre more, not one centimetre less. Anything else, I do not accept."

Many observers believe the so called 'green line' – the pre-1967 Six-Day War ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan – should be the basis for an international border between Israel and the West Bank in the creation of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli daily Haaretz said last week that Netanyahu wanted to impose the precondition of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in order to resume peace negotiations.

However, it is believed such recognition would block the Palestinians demand for the "right of return" of millions of refugees who fled or were expelled by Jewish forces, during the establishment of Israel in 1948 and subsequent wars. The refugees are now scattered throughout the Middle East.

Israel's hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said last Thursday that the right of return is not up for discussion.

Netanyahu has also not yet accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, which is a main goal of US-backed peace talks.

Abbas and Netanyahu will travel to Washington in May for their first meeting with US president Barack Obama since he became president.

A defiant Abbas said a complete building freeze on Israel's building of settlements inside the West Bank is essential for the resumption of peace talks.

"For sure, we will not submit to pressures. For example, if they say 'come and then we will see, come.' No, we won't accept it.

"Regarding the peace talks, this is our position, even if someone, if anyone in the world says 'you're wrong', he said.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and are a major source of friction between Israelis and Palestinians. They are one of the most contentious issues in the long-running conflict.

Meanwhile, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics said on Monday that Israel's population stands at 7.41 million inhabitants, of which 75 per cent of them are Jewish and 20.2 percent Arab.


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