JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said.
Abbas told the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council at a meeting Saturday that the PLO recognized Israel as a state in 1993 and should not have to accept its religious identity, the French news agency AFP reported. He added that neither Egypt nor Jordan was required to recognize Israel’s Jewish character when they signed peace treaties with Israel.
The PLO meeting was called to discuss its next steps in the wake of Israel’s decision last week to suspend its participation in U.S.-backed peace talks, which are scheduled to end on Tuesday.
Abbas also said that the new unity government set to be formed between his Fatah party, which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, will recognize Israel and renounce violence and terrorism, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported. The United States and Israel consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization.
The P.A. president said he is willing to extend peace talks with Israel if Israel institutes a settlement construction freeze in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, frees Palestinian prisoners and sets borders for a future Palestinian state. Abbas also said he would not sign a peace treaty that does not include eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.