Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, rejected on Monday the government’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Erekat said that "no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity."
Also Monday, dozens of prominent Palestinian residents of Jerusalem published an appeal to the Abbas, asking him not to make concessions to Israel over the holy city in the upcoming talks.
The full-page newspaper ad, signed by 108 prominent Jerusalemites, including top Christian and Muslim leaders, did not make specific demands. However, the signatories asked Abbas not to negotiate a deal that would "violate our national rights."
"Israel should return all of east Jerusalem, the area it captured in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed to its capital," said signatory Adnan Hussein, an adviser to Abbas on Jerusalem affairs.
Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the starting point for all negotiations with the Palestinians will be the "recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people…
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud faction head Gideon Sa’ar met Monday morning with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to convince him that the Annapolis peace summit would entail security risks for Israel.
Shas leader and Trade Minister Eli Yishai also attended the meeting.
Netanyahu said after the meeting that Olmert is repeating the mistakes that former prime minister Ehud Barak made at the failed Camp David summit in 2000. He also said that the Olmert-Barak-Livni government is about to carry out another unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian territories, in addition to 2005’s Disengagement from Gaza….