The Arab League has backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, as U.S.-backed peace talks near a deadline next month.
Arab foreign ministers said in a statement from Cairo that the League continues to support efforts to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and rejects the notion of a "Jewish state," affirming Palestinian beliefs that the label would lead to discrimination against Israel's large Arab minority, Reuters reports.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has taken a hard line in dealing with Palestinians, has made Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a prerequisite for peace. " In recognizing the Jewish state you (Palestinians) would finally make clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict," Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
Abbas objected that the Arab states have already conceded to recognize Israel as a state. "We recognized Israel in mutual recognition in the (1993) Oslo agreement - why do they now ask us to recognize the Jewishness of the state?" Abbas said.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing hard to broker a major peace deal, but thorny questions like the status of Israel, as well as its half million settlers in the West Bank and occupation of East Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 war remain sticking points in negotiations.