Last updated: 22 January, 2014

Israel’s Peres opposes Netanyahu peace demand

Israeli President Shimon Peres privately opposes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state, saying it obstructs peace talks, local newspaper Israel Hayom said Wednesday.

“In conversations held by Peres in the past weeks with senior diplomatic and political figures, he explained that this insistence by Netanyahu was ‘unnecessary,’ as he put it, since it could derail the peace negotiations,” the paper wrote.

US-brokered peace talks that began in July have faltered over seemingly irreconcilable demands from both sides, failing to bring any glimpse of a final agreement that would end decades of conflict.

Netanyahu has amplified calls for Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, a demand Palestinian leaders reject fearing this could preclude the right of return for Palestinian refugees who left or were driven into exile when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

The Palestinians recognised Israel as a state at the start of the peace process in the early 1990s.

Peres had not made his disagreement with Netanyahu public, Israel Hayom said, “so as not to undermine Israel’s uniform stance.”

Netanyahu reiterated his position in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

“To have a genuine peace between us and the Palestinians there must be a Palestinian acceptance finally of a nation-state for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinians say Netanyahu’s focus on the “Jewishness” of Israel is a deliberate ploy to sideline more pressing issues in peace talks that were kick-started by US Secretary of State John Kerry in the middle of last year, such as the contours of a future Palestinian state and the fate of Jerusalem, claimed as a capital by both sides.

“Today, you will see Mr Kerry going back and forth, discussing nothing but two issues. The two issues have never been in our agenda: the Jewishness of the state and (security in) the Jordan (Valley),” top Palestinian leader Nabil Shaath said Thursday.