The U.S. State Department on Monday dodged a direct response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's offer to extend the settlement freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, saying that the U.S. position on settlements hasn't changed.
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"Our position on settlements is well known. As weve noted we would like to see the settlement moratorium extended. Beyond that, we are not going to get into the substance of our discussions with the parties," a U.S. State Department official said when asked by Haaretz for a response to Netanyahu's Knesset speech.
"U.S. policy has been consistent. Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton are committed to Israels democracy as a Jewish state," he said.
Netanyahu spoke at the opening of the third session of the 18th Knesset on Monday, and proposed an exchange of gestures to the Palestinians, wherein Israel would renew its settlement freeze if the Palestinian Authority would recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.
The Palestinians quickly issued a statement saying they reject the offer and that "the issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter," emphasizing that Israel must freeze the settlements before they could return to U.S.-backed peace talks.