By Joel Greenberg
Thursday, October 14, 2010; A15
JERUSALEM - Responding to an offer by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend a freeze on building in West Bank settlements if Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, a top Palestinian official said Wednesday that such recognition could be granted to Israel within its 1967 borders, without the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
In media interviews, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, countered Netanyahu's offer in another volley of the verbal ping-pong that has taken the place of direct negotiations.
The talks that began last month ran aground after an Israeli moratorium on new construction in West Bank settlements expired Sept. 26 and Palestinians said they would not resume negotiations unless settlement building stopped.
Netanyahu's offer, made in a speech to the Israeli parliament Tuesday, was instantly dismissed by the Palestinians.
In an interview with Israel Radio on Wednesday, Abed Rabbo made a barbed offer of his own. He suggested that the Israelis present the Palestinians with "a map of the state of Israel along the 1967 borders, so that we can recognize it in the way it likes."
"We will recognize it according to what Israel declares, on condition that it will be along the 1967 borders," he said.
Israel has long rejected a return to the 1967 boundaries and has sought to retain large settlement blocs in the West Bank as part of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The Palestinian counterproposal came after U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged the Palestinians to respond to Netanyahu's offer with their own ideas.
"This is not a one-way street. It is a two-way street," Crowley said Tuesday. "The prime minister is offering something and asking for something. It is perfectly within the rights of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas to say, 'There's something I need, and there's something I'm willing to give.' This is the essence of the negotiation that is ongoing."
The Obama administration is working to resolve the impasse over the settlements and has urged an extension of the building freeze while future borders are negotiated. Once the borders are drawn, it would be clear which settlements could remain or would have to be dismantled.
"If we can make progress on the issue of borders, then, largely speaking, the issue of settlements is then resolved," Crowley said.
Greenberg is a special correspondent.