Mahmoud Abbas says he won’t accept Israel as Jewish state

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Mahmoud Abbas says there is ‘‘no way’’ he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, rebuffing what Palestinians fear will be key elements of a US peace proposal.

The Palestinian president’s comments signaled that the gaps between him and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, remain wide after seven months of mediation efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Abbas, whose remarks were published Friday by the Palestinian news agency WAFA, said he has withstood international pressure in the past, when he sought UN recognition of a state of Palestine over Washington’s objections.


Speaking to youth activists of his Fatah party, he suggested he would stand firm again, particularly over the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

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‘‘They are pressing and saying, ‘No peace without the Jewish state,’ ’’ he said, though not spelling out who is applying the pressure. ‘‘There is no way. We will not accept.’’

Netanyahu gave interviews to Israeli TV stations, excerpts of which were broadcast Friday night.

‘‘I am ready to proceed, I am ready to reach the end of the conflict, but it must be the end of the conflict,’’ Netanyahu told Channel 10 TV. ‘‘We won’t allow the establishment of a Palestinian state so that it will continue the conflict, so it needs to recognize the state of the Jews just like they are demanding from us that we recognize the state of the Palestinians.’’

Netanyahu said Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty.


Netanyahu has said such recognition is required as proof that the Palestinians are serious about peace. Abbas has noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized the state of Israel in 1993 and said this is sufficient.

Palestinians fear the demand is an attempt by Israel to restrict possible return options of Palestinian refugees and the rights of Israel’s large Arab minority.

The current round of talks began in July, but was plagued from the start by disagreement between Abbas and Netanyahu on the ground rules. The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967, and said talks about that state should use the 1967 lines as a starting point, a position backed by the United States but rejected by Netanyahu.

In previous negotiations with Netanyahu’s predecessors, the Palestinians have said that they are willing to accept minor land swaps to enable Israel to keep some of the dozens of Jewish settlements built on occupied land since 1967. Most of the international community deems those settlements illegal under international law.

Netanyahu never presented a detailed border proposal, but said that Israel wants to keep East Jerusalem, maintain a long-term military presence in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, and annex unspecified ‘‘settlement blocs.’’


Netanyahu accelerated settlement construction during the talks, with housing starts in settlements more than doubling in 2013, compared with the year before.

He also said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a demand that appears to have US support, based on recent speeches by Kerry and President Obama.

Abbas said in his speech late Thursday that he would not compromise on a demand for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

Earlier Thursday, Abbas’s aide, Mohammed Ishtayeh, said he believes the Kerry proposal will only refer to such a capital ‘‘in Jerusalem,’’ raising fears the Palestinians will be asked to make do with a small part of the eastern sector.

Abbas did not refer to the possibility of extending the talks.