Livni Hints PA Will Acknowledge Israel as Jewish State: ‘Expect to be Surprised’
Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni hinted that the Palestinian Authority is ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Sunday. Her comments were made at a meeting of the Israeli government’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
The Committee approved a legislative amendment initiated by MK Shimon Ohayon (Yisrael Beiteinu) that added the following article to the stated mission of Israel’s public educational system: “To assert and strengthen the values of the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s national home.”
During the ministerial proceedings on the exact wording of the amendment, a debate broke out regarding the lingering issue of Palestinian-Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Ma’ariv said.
At one point a heated exchange took place between Livni and Minister of Pensioner Affairs Uri Orbach (Jewish Home).
Orbach said that, “While it is clear to us that Israel is a Jewish state, the Palestinians will never accept this fact.” In response, the Justice Minister, who is leading Israel’s negotiating team in framework agreement talks with the PA, implied that they may be about to change course. “Expect to be surprised,” she said. “And if they [the Palestinian Arabs] are willing to recognize us as a Jewish state, would you then be willing to divide the country?”
The incident comes just a week after PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated, in an interview with The New York Times, his long held opposition to acknowledging the Jewish character of the state of Israel.
In response to Abbas’s statements, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later in the week that Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state without Palestinian-Arab recognition of a Jewish state would not be accepted by Israel.
“Now, let’s see whether the international community makes it clear to the Palestinians what the consequences are for them not reaching an agreement with Israel,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli Premier went on to say that the PA “will have no reason to continue talking with Israel” unless it is made to understand that there is a price to be paid for intransigence.