Arab League rejects Israel as a Jewish state
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has previously said that he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (AFP/File)
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Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby urged Arab countries to take a “firm stand” against Israel’s demand for Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state.
Speaking Sunday at the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo, Elaraby called the concession a deviation from the previously agreed-upon framework for peace talks.
He also said there was “no way” he would accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians fear the demand is an attempt to restrict possible return options for Palestinian refugees and the rights of Israel's large Arab minority.
Abbas’ comments suggested the extent of the difference in stances between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after seven months of mediation efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
While Israel maintains the recognition is necessary and would signal the Palestinians are serious about peace, Elaraby described the demand as an Israeli attempt to foil the talks and called for a reevaluation of the negotiation track.
Kerry is expected to present his ideas for the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal soon, but it remains unseen that he can get Abbas and Netanyahu to agree on a framework before by the April 29 deadline.
Abbas is set to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on March 17 as part of U.S. efforts to press both sides towards a peace process. Netanyahu met with Obama earlier this week.
The current round of talks began in late July, but was plagued from the start by disagreement between Abbas and Netanyahu on the ground rules. The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967, and said talks about that state should use the 1967 lines as a starting point, a position backed by the U.S. but rejected by Netanyahu.