The U.S. State Department called Wednesday for Israel and the Palestinians to press ahead with direct peace talks, citing comments by a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official that the Palestinians would be willing to recognize Israel in any way it desires if the Americans were to present a map indicating the borders of the future Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that the remarks underscore the need for face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, after recently relaunched talks have stalled due to a conflict over Israeli construction in West Bank settlements.
"This is exactly the right conversation that the Israelis and Palestinians need to have, to be exchanging ideas on how to advance this process to a successful conclusion," Crowley said. "But it also is a reminder of the limitation of, making offers and counteroffers by long distance and through the media, as opposed to sitting down face to face in a direct negotiation."
"This underscores exactly why we feel it is imperative for the Israelis and Palestinians to stay committed to direct negotiations. This conversation has to take place face to face, where eventually they can address both the core issues and their derivatives in pursuit of mutually recognized states and security for all," he added.
When asked whether the U.S. had prepared a map such as the one requested by the Palestinians, Crowley replied that "what they're asking for is the essence of a negotiation: What are the borders of a future Palestinian state? And conversely, what will be the borders of the Israeli state? This is a core issue – something only direct negotiation can resolve."
Crowley added that the U.S. position regarding the 1967 borders is that it is a final status issue which can only be resolved inside the negotiations.
Addressing the recent cabinet approval of an amendment requiring non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to a "Jewish democratic state" Crowley said that "Israel is a pluralistic democracy. It guarantees the equal rights of all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike."
"I'll defer to the Israeli government in terms of the question of citizenship oath. But, we feel strongly that Israel is a functioning democracy and, as such has responsibility to protect the rights and privileges of all of its citizens," he added.
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