State 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.

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.


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The 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 said.

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 concessions.

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.



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