PM: Prospects for peace agreement fading

Palestinian official accuses Israel of ‘escalation and provocation’ over recent deaths in West Bank

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting on February 16, 2014 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting on February 16, 2014 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)

The prospects of a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority are fading, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

“In light of recent statements by the Palestinians, we are getting farther away from an agreement with them,” he said at the weekly Likud faction meeting Tuesday.

“The Palestinians are not showing signs that they intend to come to a practical and just agreement,” he added, referring to a refusal by Fatah to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and give up the right of return.

The Revolutionary Council of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday unanimously endorsed Abbas’s rejection of demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, officials at the meeting told AFP.

Abbas said in his speech to delegates that “at 79 years old, he wasn’t going to back down on his people’s rights or betray their cause” despite the “great pressure being exerted,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Netanyahu has made recognizing Israel as a Jewish state a central issue of peace negotiations, calling it the root of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Palestinians reject that claim, underlining that they already recognized Israel in 1993 and saying that enshrining it as a “Jewish state” would jeopardize the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return home.

Abbas is to travel to the United States on an official visit next week, including a meeting with US President Barack Obama on March 17.

Meanwhile, Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesperson for Abbas, said that the killing of three Palestinians Monday by the IDF was a sign of escalation and provocation from the Israeli side that he warned would “lead to a breakdown of American efforts and lead to a situation that [Israel] will not be able to control,” Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

Abu Rudeina was referring to three separate incidents on Monday.

A Jordanian magistrate’s judge of Palestinian descent was shot by IDF forces after allegedly attacking a soldier at the Allenby border crossing.

Monday night, IDF troops shot and killed a Palestinian man throwing stones at cars on Route 60, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Another Palestinian man died after driving his car into a dry riverbed. After initially blaming Israeli police for the death, the Palestinian Authority retracted its accusations Tuesday afternoon.

Netanyahu also addressed Tuesday’s Knesset vote on the Governance Bill, which was marked by a boycott by opposition parties. The bill passed unanimously into law 67-0.

“Israel needs a strong government and fewer splinter parties,” he said. “First they said that the coalition is weak, now they say that it is too strong. This is good for the people of Israel that they have a strong government and a coalition that can guarantee action when it comes to Israel’s security, Israel’s economy and the passage of laws.”

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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