Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and accused Israel of establishing an apartheid government.
The Palestinian leader was speaking in Cairo at an emergency session of the Arab League with foreign ministers from around the Arab world. His remarks came following a week of intense debate among Israeli politicians about a Knesset bill which would enshrine Israel’s status as a Jewish state in law.
“We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel,” Abbas was quoted by Channel 10 saying. The news outlet also reported that Abbas threatened to terminate all security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank unless peace negotiations are revived. Talks collapsed in April, and Israel will not resume them so long as Abbas is partnered with the Hamas terror group in a Palestinian unity government.
Abbas charged that instead of advancing the peace process, Israel was working to set up an apartheid state, including Jews-only buses, establishment of Israeli legal sovereignty over West Bank settlements, the proposed “Jewish state” law, and requirements of declarations of loyalty by citizens.
“Return to negotiations is possible if Israel agrees to a full freeze of settlement [construction], including Jerusalem, release of the fourth group of long-term prisoners, and setting a timetable for negotiations which will begin with setting borders,” Abbas said.
Israel agreed to release four groups of Palestinian prisoners as a precondition for the American-mediated negotiations that began last year, but refused to free the final batch in March in a dispute over Palestinian demands that Israeli Arab prisoners be included, and having failed to secure Abbas’s agreement that the talks would continue beyond the original April deadline.
Abbas said Saturday that the Palestinians weren’t willing to wait any longer for progress and were determined to petition the United Nations Security Council to demand a timetable for the end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
“It’s impossible for us to wait any longer, because Israel continues its aggression and expropriation of lands and setting facts on the ground by continuing to build settlements,” Abbas was quoted saying. “The government of Israel doesn’t want, for internal reasons, to define its borders and we can’t continue with this situation.”
Abbas was expected to receive Arab League approval to lodge the UN petition in the coming days, but did not say when he would do so.
According to Channel 10, Abbas said he asked US Secretary of State John Kerry to cooperate in drafting the Security Council proposal, in order to put pressure on Israel to cease settlement construction.
The resolution is likely — but not certain — to fail, either because it falls short of the needed votes or because the US will veto it. But it will likely add momentum to international backing for Palestinian statehood.
Abbas warned that the Palestinians could take other steps, including joining the International Criminal Court, if the Security Council rejects the resolution.
The PA president said he would take these steps unless Israel “takes responsibility for the situation.”
“The situations in the [West] Bank is dangerous, and can’t continue,” Abbas said. “All signs point to [the fact that] the American mediation [of peace talks] failed with the end of negotiations.”
AP contributed to this report.