Nov 26, 2014 8:07 AM

Palestinian president against Jewish state bill

The Associated Press

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he supports Israeli members of parliament who oppose the plan to formalize Israel's status as a Jewish state.

Speaking in the South African capital, Pretoria, Abbas said it is important that Israel consider what the proposed law may mean for the region.

"We need to ask this question to the Israeli people and to ask this to the Israeli government: What does this bill mean for peace?" Abbas said, speaking through a translator.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promoting a bill to have the country's constitution declare it a Jewish state.

Critics of the bill say it discriminates against Israel's Arab minority who make up about a fifth of the population of 8 million.

Abbas is on a three day state visit to South Africa, where he met with President Jacob Zuma to discuss security in the Middle East, including tensions at the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The South African government recognized Palestine as a state in 1995, soon after the country's first all-race elections and has historically lobbied for Palestinian self-determination.

Zuma said Netanyahu's support for the bill showed Israel's refusal to find a solution to the conflict with Palestine.

"From where we stand, it looks like Israel is saying 'We don't care. We do whatever pleases us,'" said Zuma, who is advocating a two state solution. "I don't think that's how the business of global relations should be conducted."


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