"The Palestinian Authority will never recognize Israel
as a Jewish state," Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath said Wednesday, just a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
launched direct talks in Washington.
"Such a declaration would directly threaten the Muslims and Christians in Israel and prevent Palestinian refugees, who left their homes and villages a number of decades ago, from being granted the right to return to them," Sha'ath told reporters in Ramallah.
The senior Palestinian official said he was not opposed to a Jewish majority in Israel, but stressed that "the Palestinian problem is purely political."
Sha'ath, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said Netanyahu planned to raise the issue (recognition of Israel as a Jewish state) at Sharm el-Sheikh, where the direct negotiations are set to resume in mid-August, "but we flatly rejected this demand."
"We won’t expose our people to security and political threats," he added.
Earlier this week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Israel's demand to be recognized as a Jewish state is worrying.
"If the international community defines Israel as a Jewish state – such a decision should be approved by the UN," Aboul Gheit said.