Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat defended his refusal to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”
In response to a question from the Jerusalem Post about whether he recognizes Jewish rights in the Middle East, Erekat said, “Israel has rights in the Middle East and the majority of Israelis are Jews. And when we recognized Israel, we recognized the composition of the state.”
Earlier in the week, Erekat had rejected demands by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state prior to the upcoming peace conference in Annapolis, Md.
Erekat refused, saying “it is not acceptable for a country to link its national character to a specific religion,” according to news reports. Other outlets have reported him as saying that the Palestinian Authority “will never acknowledge Israel’s Jewish identity.”
In the Post interview, Erekat continued to reject Olmert’s demand, saying he was baffled as to why the prime minister wanted to “poke us in the eye” over the issue.” However, he also said it was up to Israel to define itself as it pleased.
“Like the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said, “if you change your name to ‘the Jewish state of Israel,’ we’ll call you that.”