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      PM Denies He Said PA Must Accept Israel as a Jewish State

      Netanyahu denies he made dialogue with the PA conditional on its accepting Israel as a Jewish state. News reports at the time said otherwise.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 4/22/2009, 12:21 AM

      Israel News Photo: Flash 90

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denies that he ever demanded that the Palestinian Authority accept Israel as a Jewish State before he agrees to launch negotiations with it. In a clarification that was e-mailed to reporters Monday, Netanyahu's media adviser Yossi Levy said "the Prime Minister has never set this as a pre-condition for the opening of negotiations and dialogue with the Palestinians."

       

      Following Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. Envoy George Mitchell last Thursday, news media reported that the Israeli Prime Minister had told Mitchell that he would not begin a dialogue with the PA as long as it does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

       

      Ha’aretz reported at the time that a senior official in Netanyahu's office quoted the Prime Minister as telling Mitchell ,"Israel expects the Palestinians to first recognize Israel as a Jewish state before talking about two states for two peoples.” Another Israeli official said Netanyahu saw the PA’s acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state as "a crucial element in moving forward with the political dialogue.”

       

      Another news agency said that Netanyahu’s words to Mitchell regarding the precondition were leaked by “aides who briefed reporters after the meeting on condition their names not be disclosed.”

       

      The Reuters news agency reported that said the earlier reports were based on “comments last week on the issue by a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office.”

       

      The PA was quick to respond to the report. Its negotiator Saeb Erekat said Friday that the PA “completely rejects Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state,” and called it “a ludicrous demand that contradicts international law.” Erekat said that Egypt and Jordan, too, did not recognize Israel as a Jewish state in their peace treaties with it.

       

      Four days later, however, Netanyahu is denying that he ever set such a condition for dialogue.

      The Prime Minister "is insistent in his approach that recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is a matter of substance and principle that enjoys wide recognition in the country and around the world," a clarification from his Jerusalem office said Tuesday.

       

      Without recognition, "it will not be possible to advance the diplomatic process and reach a peace settlement," it said, but added that contrary to reports, the Prime Minister “never made that a precondition for the opening of negotiations and dialogue with the Palestinians."