British PM backs 'Jewish' state of Israel
By Anees Barghouthy, Thursday, March 13, 2014
RAMALLAH – UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday supported calls to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state," saying he sensed "serious disagreements" between Palestinians and Israelis on a number of vital issues.
"That's what Israel is and that's what it will be," Cameron said at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
"Jews were persecuted around the world, including those murdered in the Holocaust, and so the decision was taken that Israel should be the homeland of the Jewish people and this is what it is," he asserted.
Addressing the Knesset (Israel's parliament) on Wednesday, Cameron expressed veiled support for Israel's longstanding demand that Palestinians recognize Israel's Jewish nature.
"Imagine, as [US Secretary of State] John Kerry put it, 'Mutual recognition of the nation state of the Palestinian people and the nation state of the Jewish people'," Cameron said.
The British premier said Thursday that he sensed "serious disagreements" between the Palestinians and Israelis on vital issues.
"I have seen serious disagreements over vital issues that will have to be settled if there is ever to be a successful two-state solution and a peace deal," he said.
"They will both have to take sometimes unpopular and unpalatable decisions with their own constituencies to achieve that settlement," Cameron said.
"What I sense is that it is possible. I am not saying it is definite or even that it is probable, but that certainly it is possible," he added.
Abbas, for his part, voiced hope that progress could be achieved in US-sponsored peace talks with Israel.
"The Palestinian leadership has not received any request to extend the negotiations, and in case of obtaining such a request, we will study it and will determine our position accordingly," Abbas said.
"We agreed on nine months of negotiations and we hope that we get something tangible and significant in this period," he added.
Direct US-brokered peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed in Washington last summer after a nearly three-year hiatus.
During a visit to the region in January, Kerry proposed a "framework" for an eventual peace deal that would address so-called "final-status issues," including borders, security, Palestinian refugees and Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).
The British prime minister condemned as "unacceptable" the humanitarian situation in the Israel-blockaded Gaza Strip.
"The situation in Gaza is unacceptable," said Cameron, who left Bethlehem for Israel, where he is expected to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres.
"There are 1.7 million people living in Gaza. A huge number are reliant for their life on food aid. There is extremely high unemployment and there is very low provision of healthcare," he added.
Cameron went on to stress that "Gaza is part of the Palestinian state."
The Gaza Strip has remained under a crippling Israeli siege since Hamas was voted to power in 2006 polls.
On Wednesday, Israeli warplanes launched several airstrikes across the coastal enclave after Islamic Jihad militants fired a salvo of rockets into southern Israel.
The violence came one day after three Islamic Jihad fighters were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Tuesday.
"Israel is killing Palestinians in cold blood," Abbas said, referring to Israel's Tuesday airstrike and several recent deadly incidents in the West Bank.
"We denounce the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, as well as the rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli towns," Abbas said in reference to the last three days of tit-for-tat violence.
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