Tough words were exchanged between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry this weekend, as the two met to discuss the peace process, an Abbas aide said Sunday morning.
Speaking to the Arab world media, Yasser Abed Rabbo said their conversation Friday in Ramallah "was very tough indeed", in particular when it came to the American wish for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu hit out Sunday over the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israeli as a Jewish state, telling his ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that the Palestinians are fundamentally opposed to Israel's existence.
"The incitement continues in the Palestinian Authority, to my great regret, and we have seen aspects of this in recent days. The opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and our right to be here, is ongoing," he said.
"I would say that everything we have seen stems from this poisonous root, but it is a fundamental problem that we are dealing with in our conversations with Secretary of State John Kerry. This is one of many subjects raised in these comprehensive talks, chief of which is that Israel's security needs to remain in Israel's hands, so that we can defend ourselves with our own forces."
We do not back down for one minute, and say this is our land. We are not strangers in Jerusalem, Beit El, Hebron, we know that we want to make gains, but these gains cannot negate the rights of the State of Israel and the rights of the Jewish people."
Meanwhile, Kerry embarked Sunday on a fourth day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, saying that any Middle East peace plan would be "fair and balanced".
"I can guarantee all parties that President (Barack) Obama and I are committed to putting forward ideas that are fair and balanced, and to improving the security of all peoples," Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem.
But Kerry also warned that despite the fact that the Israelis and Palestinians were making some progress in peace talks, there was still a chance no accord would be reached.
He said both sides had a sharper idea of the compromises needed to secure an agreement despite their deep skepticism on the chances of success.
"This has been a productive couple of days," Kerry told reporters after three days of separate talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
. "We have had very positive – but I have to say very serious, very intensive – conversations."
According to reports, Kerry's meeting with Abbas focused on the US insistence that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as the Jewish State.
Kerry said all of the major issues in the conflict – borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem – were under discussion.
"The path is becoming clearer. The puzzle is becoming more defined, and it is becoming much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough choices are," he said, adding that he would not be flying to meet the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia if he did not believe both sides were grappling with the issues.
"But I cannot tell you when, particularly, the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished," he added.
Kerry is heading to Jordan
and Saudi Arabia to discuss his effort to broker peace between Israel
and the Palestinians, yet his conversations with the US allies will undoubtedly turn to other Mideast trouble spots.
AP, Reuters, Elior Levy contributed to this report
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