We Refuse to Recognize Israel as a Jewish State, Says ex-Palestinian Negotiator

Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh proposes a Geneva conference on the Palestinian issue because bilateral talks preserve unfair balance of power.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh, who last November quit the Palestinian team negotiating with the Israelis over a peace settlement, reiterated Thursday the Palestinian position that they would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

In a meeting with journalists in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, not far from Bethlehem in the West Bank, Shtayyeh stated that the Israeli insistence on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a new demand that was not raised in the initial talks and interim agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

According to Shtayyeh the declaration of Israel as a Jewish state implies the prevention of Palestinian refugees from returning to their homeland, opening the door to the expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel from their homes and the imposition of the Jewish narrative on the history of this country, thereby rejecting the Christian and Muslim narratives.

Shtayyeh told Haaretz that there is a fundamental difference between “a state for the Jews” and a “Jewish state.”

He said that he resigned from the Palestinian negotiating team on November 5 because he felt that Israel’s declared intentions were insincere. According to Shtayyeh, the Israeli side has done everything possible to ruin the credibility of the Palestinian negotiating team in the eyes of the Palestinian public, for example, when Israel declared that it would build additional housing units in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank to balance the release of Palestinian prisoners. Ever since the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations were renewed in July 2013, the gap between the two sides has widened, instead of narrowing; in Shtayyeh’s view, the reason is the Israeli position.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he argues, does want two states – both of them, however, in the West Bank: one state for the Jewish settlers and the other for the Palestinians. Shtayyeh went on to say that perhaps the only way out of this impasse would be to convene a Geneva conference for the establishment of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis – such as the conference on Iran’s nuclear program or the one that will be held in the future to end the Syrian civil war.

The current bilateral talks, Shtayyeh argues, only prove they are preserving the uneven balance of power between the strong side, the master who continues to dictate the terms, and the weak side, subject to those terms.
Shtayyeh differs with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who endorses a boycott solely of products from settlements in the West Bank.

According to Shtayyeh, one cannot separate or distinguish the settlements from those who have formulated the policies for their establishment. He proposes that those countries whose citizens reside in these settlements should undertake appropriate measures against them on the grounds that they are violating international law.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.Credit: AP

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