Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the Palestinians a trade off on Monday to revive peace talks they quit -- a new freeze on building in settlements if they recognize Israel as a Jewish state.The Palestinians immediately rejected it. "If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, I will be ready to convene my government and request a further suspension," Netanyahu told parliament. "This is not a condition but a trust-building step, which would create wide-ranging trust among the Israeli people, who have lost trust in the Palestinian will for peace over the last 10 years," he said.
"All settlement is illegitimate, it must be frozen for a return to negotiations," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter," he told Reuters, adding that the Palestinians had already recognised Israel in 1993 and that this should suffice.
The Palestinian leadership argues that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would compromise the rights of Arab citizens of Israel who make up 20 percent of the population. Such a move, Palestinian officials say, also would effectively forgo the right of return of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced from their homes in Arab-Israeli wars to return to territory that is now Israel. (Reuters)
The direct talks were kicked off in Washington on September 2. Netanyahu made his move on Monday, three days after the Palestinians and Arab powers had given the United States a month to persuade Israel to declare a new moratorium.