Palestinians: Netanyahu Speech Effectively Ends Negotiations

Labor leader Herzog 'believes less and less' that Netanyahu wants to lead Israel to a diplomatic solution.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a unilateral end to peace talks in his speech at the annual AIPAC conference, a top Palestinian official said on Tuesday.

In his address to a gathering of the pro-Israel lobby, Netanyahu reiterated his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people.

"President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state," Netanyahu declared. "In doing so you will tell your people that, though we have a territorial dispute, Israel's right to exist is beyond dispute. You would finally make it clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict."

Fatah central committee member and former negotiator Nabil Shaath responded that Netanyahu's demand was tantamount to an an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations, AFP reported.

Both the demand for recognition and Netanyahu's insistence on keeping Israeli troops along the Jordan Valley in a future Palestinian state, were totally rejected, Shaath said.

Netanyahu's speech brought nothing new, said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The intention of Netanyahu's continued demand to recognize Israel as the Jewish state is to waste time and avoid reaching a true, just and viable peace agreement," he said.

The demand has already been rejected by the Palestinians and the Arab world, Abu Rudeineh said, and Netanyahu's insistence on repeating it is designed to sabotage the American peace efforts. He added that the Palestinian position is clear and is based on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said that Netanyahu went to Washington "ready to allocate blame without, in any way, showing any sign of willingness to do the right thing — to stop settlement activities, accept '67 borders, accept signed agreements, end illegal actions and move ahead. Instead, he is reiterating his ideological condition of recognition of a Jewish state."

Also reacting to the speech, Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, the head of Israel's opposition, said that he agreed with the prime minister that security measure were a necessary condition for any agreement and that the economic potential of peace could "advance Israel into areas in which we have never been before."

However, Herzog added that he "believes less and less that Netanyahu can or wants to be the one who leads us to a diplomatic solution."

He added that he "opposes with all my heart the boycott movement against Israel, but unfortunately it is turning into a strategic threat and the lack of diplomatic progress can only assist it."

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