Netanyahu offers settlement freeze for recognition of " Jewish" state

08:27, October 12, 2010      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday if the Palestinians agree to recognize Israel as the Jewish nation's state, he could extend the settlement construction freeze, an offer immediately rejected by the Palestinian side. But the demand was rejected by the Palestinians.

"If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, I will be willing to gather my government and ask for another suspension of construction for a limited time," Netanyahu said in a statement opening the 18th session of the Knesset parliament.

Netanyahu's unexpected statement, broadcast live over the Knesset's television channel, ended weeks of vociferous internal Israeli debate over whether the Sept. 26 end of a self-imposed 10- month settlement construction moratorium was a one-time event as Netanyahu said when he began the freeze in November last year.

"The refusal to recognize the rights of the Jewish people and its historical connection to the place is the root of the conflict and without solving this, the conflict will never end. Regarding security, any peace agreement between ourselves and the Palestinians must be based on rigid security arrangements," Netanyahu said.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) immediately threw cold water on the idea.

Spokesman of the Palestinian Presidency Nabil Abu Rdeneh told Xinhua that "the Palestinian leadership rejects the offer," adding that the settlement activities carried by Israel "are all illegal and should be frozen and removed."

"The Palestinians have no relation to the issue of dealing with Israel as a Jewish state," said Abu Rdeneh. "The Palestinian position rejects recognizing the state of Israel as a Jewish state, as a protection to the rights of the refugees and the right of the Palestinians who live in Israel."

Israel and the Palestinian National Authority embarked on shaky direct talks last month after an 18-month hiatus.

The U.S. Obama Administration and State Department, according to local media, have been prodding Israel to tack on another 60 days to the freeze, as a gesture of goodwill towards Abbas who has insisted that the talks could not be continued unless Israel extends its settlement construction freeze.

Abbas and Arab League foreign ministers at a meeting in Sirte, Libya, last week, gave the U.S. a one-month ultimatum to get Israel to stop West Bank construction.

But Netanyahu parried. "Just as the Palestinians expect us to recognize their state, we expect reciprocal treatment," in recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, he said.

"This is not a condition but a trust-building step, which would create wide-ranging trust among the Israeli people, who have lost trust in the Palestinian will for peace over the last 10 years," he added.

"Unfortunately, up until now the Palestinians have not responded to this call and the United States are searching for different ways to continue the talks," Netanyahu said.

Source: Xinhua


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