The Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday in Ramallah, sharpening his tone ahead of the PA's intended statehood bid at the U.N. in September.
"We will not accept any orders to recognize Israel as a Jewish state," Abbas said, slamming the Quartet's stance that the Palestinians must agree to Israel's demand on the issue.
In an address delivered to Muslim religious leaders in Ramallah on Saturday, Abbas claimed the goal of the PA's statehood bid was not to "isolate" Israel or to create conflict with the U.S. Rather, Abbas said, Palestinians want to fulfill their "dream" for the recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state on territories they say were occupied in 1967, as well as for full U.N. membership.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a caustic response to Abbas's comments on Saturday, saying that the Palestinian leader's comments pointed to an ulterior Palestinian motive. "Abbas has revealed the true purpose behind his plan in September - a Palestinian state in the place of Israel," Lieberman said.
Lieberman said that "the Palestinians do not really want a state living side by side in peace with Israel, but rather a state free of Jews in Judea and Samaria, and a hostile takeover of Israel from within."
Abbas and his colleagues are not interested in engaging in negotiations with Israel but prefer to take unilateral steps, Lieberman said.
The foreign minister added that the international community should make it clear to Abbas that statehood will only come when the Palestinians abandon their attempts to destroy "the only Jewish state in the world."
Meanwhile, Catherine Ashton, European Union foreign policy chief, met with Abbas on Friday and said that only negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can solve the conflict between them.
Ashton spoke ahead of scheduled meetings over the weekend with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials in Israel. She plans to continue to Jordan to discuss developments in the region with King Abdullah and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
"Following the recent tragic events in Israel and Gaza, it is more important than ever that the parties return to the negotiating table," Ashton said in an EU statement released Friday.
"It is only through negotiations - and not violence - that the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be addressed. The EU continues to make every effort to get back to the negotiation table. That is why I am traveling to the region this weekend," she said.
After asking for EU support for the Palestinian statehood bid, Ashton told Abbas that the EU does not appose the PA's legitimacy in going to the U.N., but said that the EU position on the issue will be based on what the Palestinian application to the U.N. will say.
"U.S. will cut aid to PA if it proceeds with statehood bid"
As Abbas tours Europe in his attempts to bolster support for the PA statehood plan, which he intends to bring before the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, a U.S. official warned Friday that Washington will halt financial aid to the PA if it proceeds with its unilateral declaration of statehood, DPA reported, quoting a statement issued by chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat's office.
In a meeting with Erekat on Friday, U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, reiterated the U.S. stance that it would veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
"If the Palestinian Authority insists on going to the Security Council, the U.S. will use the veto," he said to Erekat during the meeting in the West Bank city of Jericho, DPA reported him as saying.
"And in case the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its position at the U.N. through the General Assembly, the U.S. Congress will take punitive measures against it, including a reduction in U.S. aid," Rubinstein added.
Echoing Ashton's comments over the weekend, Rubinstein said the PA should seek a peace agreement with Israel through direct negotiations, rather than pursuing its statehood bid at the U.N., a move Washington views as "useless," the U.S. official was quoted as saying.
However, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem said the remarks attributed to Rubinstein were inaccurate, according to a report in the Associated Press.
"While we cannot get into private diplomatic discussions, this report is not an accurate portrayal of the U.S. position, nor did Consul General Rubinstein make the comments reported in the media," a statement released by the consulate said.
"As President Obama has made clear, initiatives at the U.N. will not bring about the two-state solution and enduring peace which both parties and the U.S. seek, and we therefore continue to oppose initiatives by the Palestinians in the U.N," the statement continued. "There is no substitute for serious and substantive negotiations between the parties, and that remains our focus."