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Reports: Kerry to Widen Push for Palestinians to Recognize Israel as Nation-State of Jewish People

Reports suggesting that Secretary of State John Kerry is frustrated by the refusal of Palestinian negotiators to acknowledge Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in the context of a final status agreement – which coalesced over the weekend with a Telegraph report saying as much in as many words – continued to trickle out yesterday and today, with articles in both Israeli and Palestinian media indicating that Kerry will try to rally Arab support behind him.

As the US secretary of state continued a frantic diplomatic quest on Sunday that some have dubbed “mission impossible”, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Palestinians’ refusal to formally acknowledge the country’s Jewish character had become the key topic in his discussions with Mr Kerry.
Palestinian officials admitted that Mr Kerry has pressed the issue with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, who has so far refused to bend.

“The Americans have made it very clear that [recognition of Israel as a Jewish state] is their position,” one Palestinian official told The Daily 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 recognises Israel as a Jewish state.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted since 2009, when he was elected, that any comprehensive treaty between Israelis and their Palestinian counterparts must include such a provision, which would robustly acknowledge that the Palestinians were giving up any future claims to Israeli territory. A May 2009 press conference with Netanyahu and President Barack Obama saw both leaders gesture toward the condition.

I have said from the outset that when it comes to my policies towards Israel and the Middle East that Israel’s security is paramount, and I repeated that to Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is in U.S. national security interests to assure that Israel’s security as an independent Jewish state is maintained.

If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met, Israel’s security conditions are met, and there’s recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace.

Reporting on this issue has been tangled, with some outlets treating the long-emphasized Israeli condition as relatively new.

[Photo: U.S. Department of State / Flickr]