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January 9, 2014 10:45 am

Kerry Frustrated by PA Refusal to Recognize Israel as Jewish State

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Secretary of State John Kerry with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (left) and Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni (right) on July 30 in Washington, DC. Credit: State Department.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is getting frustrated by Palestinian Authority leaders who are refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, creating the most significant philosophical hurdle in the peace talks, according to The Daily Telegraph on  Thursday, citing an unnamed PA official.

“The Americans have made it very clear that [recognition of Israel as a Jewish state] is their position,” the PA official told the Telegraph. “They talk about it in meetings with our side and make an issue out of it. We have made it very clear that we are not going to sign any agreement that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.”

The official said Kerry has pressed the issue with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “who has so far refused to bend,” the newspaper said.

The Telegraph said, “Abbas believes the rights of Israel’s approximately 1.5 million Arab citizens would be undermined if he concedes the point. It would also weaken the claims of around 5 million refugees and their descendants claiming a ‘right of return’ to homes that are now in Israel, Palestinians argue.”

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The newspaper noted that when PLO leader Yasser Arafat officially recognized Israel in a 1993 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin before signing the Oslo accords, he did not mention Israel as the Jewish state.

The Telegraph said Kerry has tried to find support from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, where he traveled to next, to help push Abbas to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tied Abbas’s denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state to the PA’s policy of incitement of violence against Israelis. This week, the U.S. State Department said it was aware of the incitement and has cautioned the PA about it behind closed doors, but refused to discuss the issue publicly.

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