Israel’s demand to be recognized as a Jewish state by the Palestinian Authority may be a secondary issue in the eyes of the Obama administration, a Palestinian daily claimed Saturday. But the “quotation” it cited to back up this claim could not be independently confirmed.
The Jerusalem-based Al-Quds claimed that State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki, answering questions from its reporter, suggested that within the context of any final agreement between the two parties, Palestinian recognition of Israel may not play a critical role.
“Our position is that Israel is a Jewish state, but it is not necessary for the two sides to agree on this in the final agreement,” al-Quds quoted Psaki as saying, according to an English translation of an Arabic transcript of her quote. “Negotiations have not been concluded yet. The negotiations are not about what’s important for the United States, but about what is important to both sides and their priorities.”
However, the quotation could not be independently verified, and an official State Department transcript of Psaki’s Friday daily press briefing, the possible source of the Al-Quds report, does not include the same phraseology. Psaki did answer questions on the issue, but merely said: “…If you look at the issue of a Jewish state and whether Israel will be called a Jewish state, that’s been our position, as you know, for a long time, but that doesn’t reflect what the parties will agree to, which I know you know, and of course there are many issues like that that are being discussed as part of the framework. So to us, it is not a surprise that at this pivotal point in the discussions, as we’re getting down to the later end of the nine-month timeframe, there would be heated rhetoric and language by both sides about what they are and aren’t willing to make compromises about.”
The issue arose in advance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on March 17, as part of US efforts to press both sides on peace talks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Obama last week.
Netanyahu has made the PA’s recognition of Israel as a Jewish state central to Israel’s demands, arguing that recognition will show Palestinian willingness to end the conflict.
“President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state, and in doing so, you would be telling your people, the Palestinians, that while we might have a territorial dispute, the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute,” he told the AIPAC policy conference in Washington last week. “In recognizing the Jewish state, you would finally making clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict. So recognize the Jewish state. No excuses, no delays, it’s time.”
Speaking to youth activists of his Fatah party Friday, Abbas responded to Netanyahu, saying there was “no way” he would recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
“They are pressing and saying, ‘no peace without the Jewish state,’” he said, not specifying who is applying the pressure. “There is no way. We will not accept.”
Psaki offered no direct comment when asked if the sides had indeed received a draft of the framework agreement, as reported last week in Al-Quds.
The current timetable requires Abbas and Netanyahu to accept a framework agreement by April 29.