Palestinians harden refusal to accept a 'Jewish state'

PM confident that Annapolis declaration will address the issue.

Olmert happy 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Olmert happy 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Opposition from Palestinian leaders to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the "state of the Jews" intensified on Wednesday, threatening to derail the planned post-Annapolis attempt to renew substantive peace negotiations. Nonetheless, Olmert - who reiterated on Wednesday that there could be no such talks without explicit Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state - is confident that the Annapolis joint statement of principles, which is still being negotiated between the two sides, will satisfactorily resolve the issue, The Jerusalem Post was told. Veteran Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday that the Palestinians would never formally recognize Israel as the Jewish state. "Israel can define itself however it sees fit; and if it wishes to call itself a Jewish state, so be it," he said in an interview with the satellite station Al-Arabiya. "But the Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity." In similar vein, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad was quoted by Israel Radio as rejecting Olmert's demand as unacceptable. On Tuesday, PLO Executive Committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo also dismissed the demand, stating: "It is only a Zionist party that deals with Israel as a Jewish state, and we did not request to be a member of the international Zionism movement." Olmert has stressed repeatedly in recent days that there can be no negotiations whatsoever between Israel and the Palestinians until they acknowledge that Israel is the state of the Jewish people, and that he has made this clear to both the Palestinians and the Americans in the run-up to the Annapolis summit scheduled for the end of the month. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday, following Olmert's meeting with visiting European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Olmert "referred to Israel's insistence that the foundation for the post-Annapolis negotiations with the Palestinians be recognition of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people." Olmert, the statement went on, "made it clear that from Israel's point of view, this issue is not subject to either negotiations or discussion." Earlier this week, Olmert declared that "Israel is a state of the Jewish people. Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me." Despite the apparently irreconcilable positions on this issue, the Post was told by well-placed sources on Wednesday night that Olmert believed the Annapolis joint statement would address the matter satisfactorily, enabling negotiations to proceed. Israel, the sources pointed out, came into being in the wake of the UN General Assembly's approval 60 years ago of the partition of Palestine "into Jewish and Arab states." The entire basis of the two-state solution, they added, revolved around the notion of the Jewish state, Israel, alongside the Arab state sought by the Palestinians, Palestine. "We are not the Israeli nation," the sources said. "We're the Jewish state." A lot of negative rhetoric was being heard from Palestinian officials, the sources acknowledged, saying, "They're going to have to resolve some of those contradictions."