Erekat: 'Difficult' meeting
Photo: Ronen Boidek
Erekat: 'Difficult' meeting, no joint document yet
Chief PA negotiator says Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist, yet 'won't accept it as a Jewish state'
Following a meeting held Monday between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described the session as "difficult" and said the officials had not yet begun drafting a joint document expected to be presented at the conference in late November.


"The problem over the content of the document has not yet been resolved," Erekat told said, adding that the negotiating teams planned to meet again on Tuesday.


Deepening diplomatic disagreement ahead of the conference, Erekat publicly rebuffed Israel's demand that it be recognized as a Jewish state.  While recognizing the right of Israel to exist, Erekat said: "The Palestinians won't accept Israel as a Jewish state."


Prime Minister Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, declined to comment directly on Erekat's remarks, but said that recognition of Israel's identity was key to any peace process. "This is not something that is up for discussion. It is a basic creed of the State of Israel," she said. "Our country is a Jewish democratic state. We expect to be recognized as such by any country that would expect to have a peace treaty with us."


The term "Jewish state", which Israel insists on, would de-facto prevent or dramatically limit the right of return. According to the Israeli plan, a Palestinian state would be responsible for finding a solution for the Palestinian refugees. If Israel is not recognized as a Jewish state, this would allow the return of a large number of refugees, who will violate the demographic balance in the country.


Monday morning the prime minister told the Knesset committee that he was certain Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad were committed to agreements and

ready for peace with Israel as a Jewish state. "I have no doubt that they are the only leaders among the Palestinians with whom we can negotiate," the prime minister told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.


In a letter sent to Olmert Monday evening, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman demanded that the government confirm that the prerequisite for future negotiations with the Palestinians will be a recognition of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.


Roni Sofer contributed to report


פרסום ראשון: 11.12.07, 21:38
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