Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas openly refused Monday to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. The statement came as a direct slap against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's insistence that such an acknowledgement is a necessary condition for "progress" in final-status talks.
An uproar ensued in the PA two weeks ago following an initial statement by Netanyahu aides in which it appeared the prime minister had issued an ultimatum, with PA officials calling Netanyahu's insistence on this basic understanding a "provocation" and promising a "poisonous effect" on the Israel-PA relationship. Netanyahu later clarified that recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people was a necessary component for progress in negotiations with the PA, although it would not prevent the initiation of the talks.
This is the first time since Netanyahu's statement on the matter that Abbas has publicly rejected the notion of Israel as a Jewish State.
"A Jewish state, what is that supposed to mean?" Abbas asked at a speech Monday in Ramallah. "You can call yourselves what you want, but I don't accept it and I say so publicly."
The Ramallah-based Abbas government has been propped up by the United States and Israel since the PA's first democratic election in 2006, in which the Hamas terrorist organization won almost twice the number of parliamentary seats as Fatah. Both Israel and the United States rejected the election results, and instituted Fatah leader Abbas as PA "President," calling him a "moderate" alternative to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and political bureau chief, Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Damascus.
Israel has also thwarted several assassination attempts on Abbas by providing intelligence to Ramallah-based PA officials before the attempts could take place.
Abbas will meet for talks in Washington, D.C. with U.S. President Barack Obama on May 28, 10 days after Netanyahu meets with the American president, according to the Jordan Times.