TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he plans to promote legislation that will enshrine the country's status as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The issue of Israel's status as a Jewish state figured prominently in the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians that recently broke down. Netanyahu demands that Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland to prove they are willing to coexist peacefully with such a state.
Speaking at the Tel Aviv site where Israel's Declaration of Independence was signed, Netanyahu said legislation was necessary.
"The Declaration of Independence sets, as the cornerstone in the life of the state, the national Jewish identity of the state of Israel," he said. "To my great regret, as we have seen recently, there are those who do not recognize this natural right. They seek to undermine the historic, moral and legal justification for the existence of the state of Israel as the national state of our people."
Israel does not have a constitution but a series of "basic laws" make up the foundation of the country's central tenets. Israel celebrates its 66th Independence Day next week.
The "Jewish State" matter emerged as one of the major gaps between the sides in recent talks. Netanyahu has made it his central demand of Palestinians. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says such an endorsement would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israel's own Arab minority.
The U.S.-brokered talks broke down last month after Israel didn't release a fourth batch of promised Palestinian prisoners and refused to freeze settlement building on land Palestinians want for a future state. Abbas then sought recognition for "a state of Palestine" in 15 international treaties, breaking a previous commitment.