Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that "both sides need to take
steps if we are to see the necessary conditions for negotiations to
continue," while apparently sidestepping a response to Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's offer to extending the building freeze,
the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.RELATED:Abbas to Arab League: Israel has violated all agreements
Netanyahu had said that he
would extend the freeze if the Palestinians recognize "the Jewish state
as our nation-state," in a speech to the Knesset on Monday.
Palestinians quickly rebuffed the idea, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat saying
the PA “forcefully rejects all these Israeli games. The racist demands of
Netanyahu cannot be tied to the request to cease building in the settlements for
the purpose of establishing a state.”
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, was not much more forthcoming, saying that for the
Palestinians all the settlements were illegal, and their construction should be
frozen so peace talks could continue.
“As for the issue of Israel’s
Jewishness, we have nothing to do with this matter,” Abu Rudaineh said, adding
that the Palestinians went to the peace talks with Israel on the basis of mutual
recognition between Israel and the PLO.
“This is the Palestinian position
on the basis of which the peace process was launched,” he
Netanyahu, in his Knesset speech, said that despite the negative
Palestinian response, the US was “attempting other means to ensure that the
talks take place. The United States has made various suggestions, and we are
seriously and responsibly considering them, in accordance with Israel’s national
interests, first and foremost security.”
The prime minister did not spell out how long a
period he had in mind, nor the manner in which he expected the Palestinian
leadership to offer their recognition. One idea that has been discussed was for
Abbas to deliver a speech in Arabic recognizing Israel as the nation-state of
the Jewish people, just as Netanyahu delivered his Bar-Ilan speech in Hebrew
last year declaring acceptance of a two-state solution.
Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said in response to
the Palestinian rebuff to Netanyahu’s proposal that eventually a peace agreement
would require Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy.
“If they do
it now, this would energize the process and move it ahead much more speedily to
tackle the other issues,” Regev said. “This process will not succeed if the
expectation is that the Palestinians make the demands, and Israel makes the
It will only work if it is a two-way street where there is
give and take, and flexibility is exercised on both sides.”Khaled Abu
Toameh contributed to this report.