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Palestinians Call on US, Israel to Set Borders
RAMALLAH, Occupied Palestinian – The Palestinians on Wednesday called on the US administration and Israel to define borders in response to Israel's demand for recognition as the Jewish state.
"We officially demand that the US administration and the Israeli government provide a map of the borders of the state of Israel which they want us to recognise," senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo told AFP.
His remarks came after the US State Department asked the Palestinians to extend a counter-proposal to Israel's call for recognition as a "Jewish state" in exchange for a possible extension of restrictions on settlement building.
The Palestinians rejected the offer, saying recognition of Israel's Jewish identity had no relation to the peace process.
They instead demanded that the US administration set the 1967 lines as the starting point for negotiations about final borders.
"We want to know whether this (Israeli) state includes our lands and houses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem," Abed Rabbo said, referring to Palestinian lands occupied during the 1967 Six Day War.
"If this map is based on the 1967 borders and provides for the end of the Israeli occupation over all Palestinian lands... then we recognise Israel by whatever name it applies to itself in accordance with international law," he said, without elaborating.
"We are awaiting a response from Tel Aviv and Washington," he added.
When asked about Abed Rabbo's comments, senior Israeli cabinet minister Silvan Shalom said it was "unacceptable to return to the lines of June 1967."
"There is a very large consensus in Israel on this point," Shalom told public radio.
Israel has refused to withdraw completely from the occupied territories, insisting it will hang on to major settlement blocs as part of a land exchange and maintain a security presence in the Jordan Valley.
The Palestinians recognised Israel in the early 1990s but have adamantly refused to recognise it as a Jewish state for fear that doing so would prejudge the fate of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
They also note that Arabs make up around 20 percent of Israel's population.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley invited both sides to make proposals on how to revive the moribund talks, which were relaunched on September 2.
"If Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu, who has offered his thoughts on both what hes willing to contribute to the process, what he thinks he needs for his people out of the process, we would hope that the Palestinians would do the same thing," he told reporters.
"And through this ongoing dialogue (we) will gain the commitment on both sides to continue and to resume in these negotiations."
Netanyahu's proposal was criticised in Israel on Tuesday, with the left-leaning Haaretz calling it a "major diversionary ploy" and the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot accusing him of trying to "torpedo" the talks.
The direct negotiations ground to a halt on September 26 after the expiry of a 10-month moratorium on the construction of new settler homes in the West Bank.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has refused to hold further negotiations while settlement construction continues and last week Arab League foreign ministers gave US negotiators a month to resolve the impasse.