The Knesset opened its winter session on Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that he would be willing to extend a construction freeze in West Bank settlements if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
"Unfortunately up until now the Palestinians have not responded to this call and the United States are searching for different ways to continue the talks," he said.
"I made this message clear in quiet ways last month, and I am saying it here, now, in public: If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, I will be willing to gather my government and ask for another suspension of construction for a limited time," Netanyahu said.
"The US is making various suggestions and we are considering them seriously in relation to Israel's interests, first and foremost security and the promise of continued existence," Netanyahu said.
"The refusal to recognize the rights of the Jewish people and its historic connection to the place is the root of the conflict and without solving this, the conflict will never end. Regarding security, any peace agreement between ourselves and the Palestinians must be based on rigid security arrangements."
Immediately after the prime minister's speech, the Palestinian Authority issued a statement rejecting his demand. Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said a return to peace talks required a freeze on settlement building. "The issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter," he told Reuters.