BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" is "the minimal requirement for peace."
During a webcast video speech
to the 10th annual Saban Forum on Middle East policy in Washington, Netanyahu said that Palestinians needed to "come to grips" with the idea of Israel as a Jewish nation state in order for peace negotiations to succeed.
He added: "But it's not the only requirement. ... There must be iron-clad security arrangements to protect the peace."
Under the Obama administration, "defense, security, and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel ... has reached new heights," Netanyahu said.
According to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, the US has donated an average of $3 billion annually to Israel since 1985, and two thirds of the donation is designated for military aid.
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, who also spoke at the conference, reiterated that the Palestinian side had no intention to change its "narrative, history, and beliefs in order to accept Israel as a Jewish state."
"We have recognized the right of Israel to exist in peace and security on the 1967 borders and we stand by our recognition," he also said, according to a Palestinian official.
He also called on the US and Israel to recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders, and he said that he was surprised that neither country had seized the "opportunity" to recognize it.
Netanyahu claimed that he and his predecessors have consistently been willing to compromise with the Palestinians.
"This conflict didn't begin because we denied the right of the Palestinian people to a state of their own," Netanyahu said.
There would be peace, Netanyahu said, if "there were no longer any Palestinian national claims on the Jewish state - no right of return ... no residual claims of any kind. And that, the Palestinians have so far been unwilling to give."
More than 760,000 Palestinians - estimated today to number 4.8 million including their descendants - were forced into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.
Palestinian officials have repeatedly said that recognizing the concept of Israel as a "Jewish state" is unnecessary and threatens the rights of nearly 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who remained in their homes during the displacement of the majority of the Palestinian population during the 1948 war.
The right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land is enshrined in article 11 of UN resolution 194.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.