Tuesday, October 12, 2010

US responds positively to Netanyahu's deal; urges Palestinians to make counter-offer to Israel

The United States suggested Tuesday that the Palestinians make a counter-offer now that Israel has asked them to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in return for a freeze on settlements.

The offer by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was swiftly rejected by the Palestinians who are threatening to quit six-week-old peace negotiations unless Israel renews a moratorium on Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

But the US State Department suggested Netanyahu’s offer could be a useful way to re-energize negotiations that were launched in Washington on September 2, but bogged down when the moratorium expired on September 26.

Asked about Netanyahu’s offer, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley stressed that both parties must “continue to create conditions for the direct negotiations to continue.”

"What Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence a core demand of the Israeli government, which we support," Crowley said. "The recognition that Israel is a part of the region – acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people – is what they want to see through this negotiation."

Crowley stressed that the US was encouraging the continuation of direct talks. "This is not a one-way street. It is a two-way street. The prime minister is offering something and asking for something. It is perfectly within the rights of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas to say there's something I need and there's something I'm willing to give," he said.

Asked if the United States recognized Israel as a Jewish state, Crowley said it did:

"I'm not making any news here. We recognize the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well".