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Israel says S.American "Palestine" nods hurt peace
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel assailed Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay Tuesday for declaring recognition of a Palestinian state, calling it "highly damaging interference" by countries that were never part of the Middle East peace process.
"They never made any contribution to it ... and now they're making a decision that is completely contrary to everything that has been agreed so far," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. "It is absurd."
Palmor said Israel would convey its disappointment to the governments concerned and warn "any country that will follow suit" they risked creating more confusion about peace prospects.
Argentina announced Monday it was recognizing "Palestine as a free and independent state" and said the decision followed Uruguay and Brazil, which last month recognized "the state of Palestine based on its pre-1967 borders."
Israel disputes the Palestinian claim on all the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land it captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and has since extensively settled.
"Such a declaration today only harms the peace process, because it merely encourages the Palestinians to keep digging in and hoping the miracle will somehow descend from the heavens or from the international community, that will impose some kind of accord on Israel," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said.
"And what is important is that the Americans don't accept this either," he told Israel's Army Radio.
Most of the world ignored the declaration of a Palestinian state by Yasser Arafat in 1988. But as the peace process withers, Abbas has said other options could include seeking recognition at the United Nations -- though he has acknowledged it would unlikely ever get American support.
U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations dating back two decades are predicated on a Palestinian state being delineated with Israel's consent. World powers are pressing for a treaty securing statehood in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Gaza Strip, which Israel took from Egypt in the 1967 war and quit in 2005.
The current right-wing Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is resisting U.S. calls to order a halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas set as a condition for resuming talks.
Abbas argues that the Palestinians, who have mooted land swaps as part of an accord with Israel, need to be assured their future state would have enough territory and a capital in East Jerusalem. Israel calls all of Jerusalem its undivided capital, a status that, like the settlements, has won no international backing.
"Everyone who supports the two-state solution must take the high ground and the moral ground by recognizing the state of Palestine on the 1967 lines," said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat.
"This is the only way to curb Israeli government policies of land-grabs and settlement activities."
Abbas's own mandate to negotiate over borders and other core issues is disputed by rival Hamas Islamists who swept a 2006 election, seized control of Gaza a year later, and spurn permanent coexistence with the Jewish state.
"There is one Palestinian entity in the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority, another Palestinian entity in Gaza governed by Hamas, and the two don't even recognize each other," said Palmor.
"Which Palestinian state are the Brazilians and the Argentineans recognizing? This is unclear even to the Palestinians themselves."
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah and Maayan Lubell and Douglas Hamilton in Jerusalem; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
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