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Jewish state recognition, prisoner release on agenda for Abbas-Obama meet

(JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hold firm in his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state when he meets with President Obama at the White House.

Monday’s meeting in Washington, D.C., will center on the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Israel’s planned release of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for late this month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made recognition of Israel’s Jewish character a key condition of any final peace agreement, but Abbas has said the condition would undermine Palestinian refugees’ right to return to Israel.

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog also says the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Times of Israel reported.

As to the prisoner release, which is scheduled for March 28, some members of Israel’s governing coalition have voiced their opposition. The release would implement the fourth and final stage of Israel’s agreement last year to free 104 Palestinian prisoners as a condition for resuming peace negotiations.

On Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon criticized Abbas for being inflexible in the talks, calling him “not a partner” for an agreement. Yaalon has criticized the negotiations in the past, saying he doubts their chances for success.