A few weeks after the Palestinians are expected to present Benjamin Netanyahu with a missive detailing their conditions for the renewal of peace negotiations, the Israeli prime minister will respond with a letter of his own. Government officials familiar with the document told Ynet Wednesday night it would not include a demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
In the document, Israel will also refer to its demand to maintain control over the Jordan Valley and state that any future Palestinian state must be demilitarized.
Netanyahu has repeatedly demanded that the Palestinian Authority, and particularly its leader Mahmoud Abbas, recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people as a precondition to the peace talks, just as the premier recognizes the need to establish a Palestinian state.
Senior officials said this demand would not appear in the new missive, adding that the demand will be made only towards the conclusion of the peace negotiations with the PA.
"We are not entering talks with preconditions. They want us to commit to a withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. This is a precondition, and we oppose such conditions. Therefore, we will not demand Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state prior to the resumption of negotiations. Now we need to sit down and talk," one Israeli official said.
The officials said the document, which was shown to members of the US Congress in May 2011, will detail the security arrangements Israel deems necessary for a peace agreement.
A Palestinian official admitted he was surprised to learn that the Netanyahu government has retracted the demand for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, but stressed that for the Palestinians the most critical issue at this juncture is the freezing of settlement construction in the West Bank.
"Despite the fact that Israel decided not to present any preconditions, it cannot demand that the Palestinians refrain from presenting any conditions of their own," he told Ynet.
The official said the PA does not believe the Netanyahu government would be able to take any far-reaching measures.
Therefore, he said, the Palestinians "will wait until after general elections are held in Israel to see if there are any coalition changes that would allow serious negotiations to be conducted."
However, he added, "if Israel presents in the letter its real positions regarding borders, this would be a significant step" that may lead to a breakthrough.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office said that during his scheduled meeting with a delegation of senior Palestinian officials next week, the Israeli premier will suggest holding direct negotiations with Abbas. Netanyahu’s aide, Attorney Yitzhak Molcho, will relay this message during his upcoming meeting with Abbas, during which he will also present the Israeli missive to the Palestinian president.