WASHINGTON: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday directly urged Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and to “abandon the fantasy” of flooding Israel with refugees.
But his remarks sparked a furious reaction from the Palestinians who denounced his demand and said it had effectively put the final nail in the coffin of the US-led peace talks.
Addressing delegates at the annual policy conference of AIPAC, Netanyahu said he was prepared to make an “historic peace,” but not without a Palestinian acceptance of the Jewish state.
“It’s time the Palestinians stopped denying history,” he said, returning to a major point of disagreement in peace talks, which have struggled to make headway ahead of a looming April deadline.
“President Abbas: recognize the Jewish state and in doing so, you would be telling your people.. to abandon the fantasy of flooding Israel with refugees,” he said.
“In recognizing the Jewish state you would make clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict.. No excuses, no delays, it’s time.”
But top Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told AFP that Netanyahu’s demand for such recognition, and his insistence on keeping Israeli troops along the Jordan Valley in a future Palestinian state, were “totally rejected.”
Speaking to AFP, he said Netanyahu’s speech was tantamount to an “an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations.”
Israel has repeatedly insisted there will be no peace deal without addressing the issue of recognition, but the Palestinians have rejected the demand, which they say will deny their historical narrative and compromise the right of return for their refugees.
Netanyahu also alluded to Israel’s demand to retain a military presence along the Jordan Valley, which runs down the eastern flank of the West Bank, in any future deal saying he would not cede security to foreign peacekeepers.
“If we reach an agreement with the Palestinians, I don’t delude myself. That peace will most certainly come under constant attack by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda and others,” he said