US Secretary of State John Kerry has criticised Israel's insistence that the Palestinians publicly declare Israel to be a Jewish state.
Kerry said Thursday that recognition had already been made in UN resolutions and by the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and it is a mistake for Israel to keep insisting on it as the two sides work towards a two-state peace agreement.
"'Jewish state' was resolved in 1947 in (UN) Resolution 181 where there are more than 40-- 30 mentions of 'Jewish state,'" Kerry testified at a Congressional hearing.
"In addition, chairman Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004 confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state. And there are any other number of mentions," he added.
"I think it's a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace, and we've obviously made that clear," Kerry said in a session of testimony on the State Department budget.
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Israeli public radio on Friday broadcast Kerry's comments, followed by what it said was a recording of Arafat commenting on a 1988 decision by the Palestinian National Council, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s parliament-in-exile at the time.
"The PNC had accepted two states, a Palestine state and Jewish state," Arafat says in English.
There was no official Israeli response to Kerry's comments, but the radio quoted an unidentified political source as saying that it was "easier for the Americans to pressure Israel to give up on the demand for recognition of a Jewish state than to deal with the Palestinians."
Israel and the Palestinians have been locked in talks that US Secretary of State John Kerry fought hard to kick-start in July after a three-year hiatus, but the negotiations have faltered over key issues.
After a meeting chaired by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, the PLO Executive Committee blasted “attempts to extract recognition of the Jewishness of the State of Israel in order to erase Palestinian history and rights in one sentence”.