US: Peace framework will recognize Israel as Jewish state

American ambassador endorses key Netanyahu demand, saying Arab world will have to accept ‘nation state of the Jewish people’

Elie Leshem is deputy editor of The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with then US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in April 2013. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with then US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in April 2013. (Flash90)

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro asserted on Friday that the framework peace deal currently being negotiated by US Secretary of State of John Kerry will include Palestinian recognition of Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recognize Israel’s Jewishness has been a sticking point in negotiations, with the Palestinians refusing to accede to a demand that would tacitly do away with Palestinian hopes for a “right of return” for refugees and their descendants.

“It’s too early to know what compromises and concessions both sides will make,” Shapiro told Israel Radio on Friday morning. “But we do believe… that Israel deserves recognition as a Jewish state. That has always been US policy — that Israel is a Jewish state and should remain a Jewish state. That will be one of the elements of the framework we’re working on.”

Leading Palestinians made clear their opposition to the demand this week, insisting that by introducing the Jewish factor, Israel was drawing a red line that could doom negotiations.

“I remember the days when we were told, ‘All you need is to get the PLO to recognize Israel, and recognize Israel’s right to exist in safe and secure boundaries,’” said Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Palestinians did just that, she noted, as part of the 1990s interim peace agreements.

“The Jewishness of the state of Israel… this is a new addition,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

But Shapiro sounded confident that, in a final-status agreement, the Palestinians — indeed, the entire Arab world — would have to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and will remain as such.

“I assume that under the framework that we’re currently preparing — that we’ll see that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as the nation state of the Jewish people” he said. “And in the end, we’ll need to know that this is the end of the conflict, and that’s one way of verifying that… that everyone in the region and all of [Israel’s] neighbors will accept that there is a nation state of the Jewish people here, in the Jewish homeland.”

When invoking “the end of the conflict,” Shapiro was likely implying that by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state under a permanent peace deal, the Palestinians would be forfeiting any future demand for a right of return.

In a speech to Israeli students on Sunday, Abbas left open an option for recognizing Israeli as a Jewish state, saying the PA could accept such a move if it was initiated by the United Nations. Shapiro wouldn’t comment on the prospect of a UN-led decision to ratify Israel’s Jewishness, saying rather that there were several options and that it was up to the two sides to arrive at a compromise.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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