Palestinian Official: U.S. Pressing Us to Recognize Israel as Jewish State

Israel is increasing the number of issues on the table, including discussing the Jordan Valley separately from security arrangements, Palestinians tell Al-Hayat.

Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury

The United States has accepted Israel's position that any peace agreement with the Palestinians must include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported Tuesday morning, quoting senior Palestinian officials.

Furthermore, Al-Hayat reported, the Americans are pressuring the Palestinians to accept the Israeli demand and agree to its inclusion in the framework agreement U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is formulating.

The report comes less than a week after another report in Palestinian media that accused Kerry of siding with the Israelis on security issues, and quoted one Palestinian official as saying that Kerry would "bear responsibility" if peace talks failed. "He is not operating as a neutral sponsor and mediator," the official said.

Meanwhile, the Al-Hayat report also raised the issue of future security arrangements and how they would affect control over the Jordan Valley. According to the senior Palestinian officials quoted in the report, Israel has been presenting the issue of the Jordan Valley as separate from the core issues defined in the Oslo Accords -- namely, borders, refugees, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, security issues and water sources.

The Palestinian officials said that Israel’s position -- that the Jordan Valley be discussed separately from other security matters -- is holding up the peace process, as the strategic valley has been discussed in the context of security arrangements since the signing of the Oslo Accords.

According to one official quoted in the report, Israel is increasing the number of issues on the table to slow down negotiations and convolute the process to avoid progress. If the U.S. presents a framework agreement that includes Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Israeli security and military presence in the Jordan Valley, one official told Al-Hayat, no pragmatic results will emerge from these negotiations. Furthermore, the official said, Israel will focus on these two issues, leaving aside the other matters, and will continue to create facts on the ground through the continued construction in West Bank settlements.

In the last meeting between Kerry and Palestinian officials held in Ramallah on Friday, it was reported that the atmosphere was problematic and that Palestinians were not confident about the continuation of the talks and about its results, despite Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ declared commitment to the nine-month negotiating period with Israel.

Kerry on Friday shrugged off predictions of failure, saying that Israelis and Palestinians remained committed to peace talks and were on course to wrap up a full deal by April.

Speaking at the end of his second visit to the region in just a week, Kerry said the two sides were discussing a framework for a final-status accord to resolve the core issues at the heart of the decades-old conflict.

"Both parties remain committed to fulfilling their obligations to stay at the table and negotiate hard during the nine-month period that we set for that," Kerry told reporters after separate talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

"We're not talking at this point about any shifts [in the schedule]," he said, dismissing bleak assessments from both sides on progress in the U.S.-brokered negotiations, which resumed in July after a three-year pause.

Kerry wants the two camps to accept a so-called framework accord that will touch on all the main issues, such as security, the future of Jerusalem and the fate of refugees, and serve as a broad outline for a final deal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.Credit: AP

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