Netanyahu Would Extend Settlement Freeze In Return For Recognition

(Source : cnn) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he would renew a temporary halt of settlement construction in the West Bank in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu made the remark at the opening of the Knesset's winter session. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had threatened to abandon Mideast peace talks without an extension of the settlement moratorium, which expired last month. "I will say this publicly now," Netanyahu said. "If the Palestinian leadership would say to its people that they recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, I would be willing to gather my government and ask for an additional suspension." He said he had passed the message along "in quiet ways," but "regretfully, the Palestinians have yet to accept my call." The Palestinians have consistently rejected recognizing Israel as the nation state for the Jewish people, maintaining that it is up to Israelis themselves to define what their state is. Palestinians also believe that offering such recognition would compromise the position of Palestinian refugees who either fled or were forced from their homes upon the creation of the state of Israel, as Israel could maintain the refugees had no right to return there. "If in principle Netanyahu is willing to accept the moratorium and the freeze of settlements, he should do it for the peace process and he should do it for the request of all the international community, and not make it conditional to something else," said Mohammed Shtayeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and part of the Palestinian negotiating team.