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March 8, 2014

Abbas: No recognition of Israel as Jewish state

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there is "no way" he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, rebuffing what Palestinians fear will be key elements of a U.S. peace proposal.

Abbas' comments signaled that the gaps between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remain wide after seven months of mediation efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Abbas, whose remarks were published Friday by the Palestinian news agency WAFA, said he withstood international pressure in the past, when he sought U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine over Washington's objections.

Speaking to youth activists of his Fatah party, he suggested he would stand firm again, particularly over the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

"They are pressing and saying, 'No peace without the Jewish state,'" he said, though not spelling out who is applying the pressure. "There is no way. We will not accept."

Netanyahu gave interviews to Israeli TV stations, excerpts of which were broadcast Friday night.

"I am ready to proceed, I am ready to reach the end of the conflict, but it must be the end of the conflict," Netanyahu told Channel 10 TV. "We won't allow the establishment of a Palestinian state so that it will continue the conflict, so it needs to recognize the state of the Jews just like they are demanding from us that we recognize the state of the Palestinians."

Netanyahu said Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Netanyahu has said such recognition is required as proof that the Palestinians are serious about peace. Abbas has noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized the state of Israel in 1993 and said this is sufficient.

Palestinians fear the demand is an Israel attempt to restrict possible return options of Palestinian refugees and the rights of Israel's large Arab minority.

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