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Arab League backs Palestinian push for statehood

Nov. 29, 2014 8:30 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 5, 2015 8:31 P.M.)
CAIRO (AFP) -- The Arab League on Saturday backed President Mahmoud Abbas' plan to seek UN endorsement for a timetable for declaring an independent state, and rejected recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

But the extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers, which Abbas attended, did not announce when they would approach the United Nations Security Council.

A statement said the ministers agreed on a plan which includes submitting an "Arab proposal to the United Nations Security Council to end the (Israeli) occupation," of Palestinian land.

The 22-member bloc also said they support plans by Abbas to said in a statement.

It also backed Palestinian plans to seek membership in UN agencies and international courts.

In 2012, the Palestinians won the status of UN observer state.

With peace talks now bogged down, the Palestinians have warned they would go ahead with plans to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council demanding an end to Israeli occupation.

As part of their diplomatic offensive they are also determined to seek to join the International Criminal Court, where they could sue Israeli officials over allegations of war crimes.

The Arab foreign ministers also announced Saturday their "categorical rejection of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state," the statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that Abbas, whose Palestinian Liberation Organisation recognized Israel in a 1993 accord, affirm the country as a "Jewish state."

Netanyahu's government has passed a controversial draft law enshrining in law Israel's status as the Jewish national homeland.

Israel's identity is already contained in its 1948 declaration of independence, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, which said the new proposal fails to emphasize "commitment to the equality of all its citizens."

Netanyahu insists the law would balance Israel's Jewish and democratic characteristics.

The country's parliament, the Knesset, is to vote on the proposal on Dec. 3.

Palestinian leaders worry that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would threaten the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their land in what is now Israel, as enshrined in UN resolution 194. They also worry it would codify racial discrimination against the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Palestinians.
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