Fatah's Revolutionary Council on Monday unanimously endorsed a move by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to reject Israeli demands to be recognised as a Jewish state, creating another stumbling block for peace talks.
"President Abbas has reaffirmed his refusal to recognise the Jewishness of the State of Israel and council members stood up to hail this decision," a senior Fatah official told AFP from the meeting in Ramallah.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made recognising Israel as a Jewish state a central issue of peace negotiations, saying it is at the root of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
Palestinians reject that claim, noting that they recognised Israel in 1993 and saying that enshrining it as a "Jewish state" would compromise the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.
Abbas told delegates that "at 79 years old, he wasn't going to back down on his people's rights or betray their cause" despite what he called "great pressure", said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Abbas announced last week that he would never recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu's government says the recognition would demonstrate that Abbas' Fatah movement was serious about peace.
Abbas heads to US
Abbas is scheduled to travel to the United States on an official visit next week, including holding a meeting with US President Barack Obama on March 17.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been leading the latest push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, encouraging both sides to sign a "framework agreement" on the thorny issues that have long troubled negotiations, which include the delineation of borders, the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, security issues, the status of Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
The US has appeared to back the recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state", but the State Department said Friday that the issue was still up for negotiation.
"If you look at the issue of a Jewish state and whether Israel will be called a 'Jewish state', that's been our position, as you know, for a long time, but that doesn't reflect what the parties will agree to," said spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "... And, of course, there are many issues like that that are being discussed as part of the framework."
In another sign that a renewed diplomatic push for peace in the Middle East is under way, Prime Minister David Cameron plans to make his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories this week, a trip delayed by record-breaking floods in Britain.
Downing Street says the British leader will meet with both Netanyahu and Abbas on his two-day visit and will deliver a speech to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, on Wednesday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
Date created : 2014-03-11