Arab League backs refusal to recognize Jewish state

Kuwait summit expresses ‘total rejection’ of Netanyahu’s demand, already dismissed by Abbas

Arab ministers meeting in Kuwait, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Nasser Waggi)
Arab ministers meeting in Kuwait, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Nasser Waggi)

Arab leaders fully back a Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a joint statement said on Wednesday.

“We express our total rejection of the call to consider Israel as a Jewish state,” said the final declaration of the two-day Arab summit in Kuwait.

The move was widely expected after a draft statement endorsed by foreign ministers on Sunday stressed a “categorical rejection” of the demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and rejected “all pressures exerted on the Palestinian leadership” to agree to that demand.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a central demand in peace talks.

But on Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League the demand was being used a ploy to wreck negotiations.

“Israel has not missed an opportunity to derail US peace efforts, including raising new demands, such as the demand for recognition as a ‘Jewish state,’ which we have refused to so much as discuss,” Abbas told the conference.

Abbas was scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman later Wednesday in an effort to extend talks, which are slated to end in a month.

Kerry’s trip to Amman aims “to continue to narrow the gaps between the parties,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday, adding that the US diplomatic chief would also be in touch with Netanyahu “over the phone or by video conference.”

His unexpected visit to the region — setting off from the Italian capital just hours after arriving — comes as fresh tensions rose over the peace talks, which Kerry is struggling to keep on track beyond the April 29 deadline.

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