Senior Palestinian Official Denies Offering to Recognize 'Jewish State'

What Nabil Shaath said is that the Palestinians would consider it if all big problems ironed out, and then say No.

Fatah leader Nail Shaath denies media reports that contingent on substantial problems being ironed out, the Palestinian Authority would consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

Among the outlets reporting on the matter was the Palestinian News Network, quoting "Israeli media reports". But it isn't so, Shaath said on Wednesday, telling the Palestinian news site Ma'an that he had been misinterpreted during a discussion with a delegation of Harvard University students on Monday, on Palestinian attitudes toward recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

Quite the opposite, Shaath indicated: the Palestinians wouldn't even discuss recognition because it would reinforce the occupation and imperil any putative right of return for Palestinian refugees, as well as the rights of Israel's Palestinian residents.

One student had asked Shaath about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state if Israel recognized a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return and upheld Palestinian rights. His answer was no: “If Israel recognizes and puts into effect all our rights, we will discuss your suggestion but our answer will be negative because we oppose a Jewish state just as we oppose Palestine as a state for Muslims or Christians only.”

Top Israeli officials have been conditioning any deal with the Palestinian Authority on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The right of return for Palestinian refugees is also off the table as far as Israel is concerned.

Earlier this month Shaath accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of unilaterally declaring an end to the peace negotiations during his speech to AIPAC on March 4, by demanding the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

"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."

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 at the time.