Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat has bristled at Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish entity, saying such a request is tantamount to asking them to join the Zionist movement.
Erekat, who travelled to Washington on Thursday to attempt to narrow down differences and jump-start the stalled talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, took issue with Tel Aviv’s refusal to extend the partial freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and said Israel must choose between settlements and negotiations, The Jerusalem Post reported on Saturday.
Following his meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and other senior State Department officials on Thursday, Erekat flatly dismissed calls for recognition of Israel as a Jewish entity.
"They [Israel] want me to join the Zionist movement. I will not," said Erekat, who insisted that Tel Aviv must resume the partial settlement freeze as a precondition for the resumption of the US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
He made the remarks in Palestine, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the United States for talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.
Last week, Erekat sent a clear message to the US administration over the stalled negotiations, saying that it is high time to shift the focus away from talks and to solid decisions.
He also stated that the Palestinian Authority is prepared to give Washington two or three weeks to obtain a final answer on Israel’s position on the settlements issue.
Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu began the direct talks in September, but failed to reach any agreements after Tel Aviv refused to extend the partial moratorium on settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.