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PA Official: Recognizing Israel 'Hurts the Refugees'

Fatah member Nabil Shaath denies he said that the PA is willing to consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish state after talks conclude.
By Dalit Halevi and Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/19/2014, 2:16 AM

Nabil Shaath
Nabil Shaath
Flash 90

Nabil Shaath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, denied on Tuesday comments attributed to him, according to which the Palestinian Authority (PA) is willing to consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish state after the peace negotiations conclude.

On Tuesday, Kol Yisrael radio aired an interview with Shaath in which he said that the PA would be willing to consider Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand for recognition after the issues in dispute are solved.

Shaath added that Israel’s bringing up the demand for recognition at the present time is suspicious given that other issues have not been resolved. “Had this issue been brought up after these problems were solved, it would likely be resolved,” he told Kol Yisrael.

Hours later, in a conversation with the PA-based WAFA news agency, Shaath denied that he made these comments, saying that the PA’s position is that no discussions be held on the issue of recognition as Israel, as doing so means legitimizing “the theft of Palestine” and endangers the status of the so-called “Palestinian refugees”  - meaning the millions of descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel, whom the PA demands be given the right to “return” to Israel, which could make it a majority-Arab state.

Shaath told WAFA that when asked about the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, he replied that at the end of the negotiations on an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, the release of all prisoners and all other significant issues, the PA leadership will discuss this issue with the Israelis and ask them about the benefits of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly insisted that the PA would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and has also stressed that the future Palestinian state would not include the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier.

He stood his ground several weeks ago, saying during a meeting with Fatah youth activists that that there is "no way" he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of eastern Jerusalem.

Abbas was backed last week by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that it is a “mistake” for Israel to demand that the PA recognize it as a Jewish state in order to achieve peace.

“I think it's a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the decider of their attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace, and we've obviously made that clear,” Kerry told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Netanyahu has insisted that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order to reach a peace agreement, explaining that the Arabs’ refusal to recognize Israel stands at the heart of the conflict.