The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered the Palestinians a new freeze on settlement building – if they recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
The Palestinians immediately rejected the offer, refusing to make a move they have long opposed.
The deadlock increases doubts over the chances of resuming stalled peace talks.
“If the Palestinian leadership would say unequivocally to its people that it recognises Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, I will be willing to convene my government and ask for an additional suspension of the construction,” said the prime minister.
If Netanyahu’s offer was aimed at reviving the talks, others saw a ploy to regain the initiative after the recent criticism over settlements. Palestinians say calling Israel a Jewish state would compromise the rights of Israel’s Arabs.
“There is no connection between this issue and going back to the negotiations and the demand of Prime Minister of Israel,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh,
spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Amid the stand-off over talks, Israeli security forces clashed again with Palestinian youths in East Jerusalem, scene of frequent tensions over Jewish settlements. Stones were thrown, tear gas was fired, and there were several arrests.