JERUSALEM -- As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for a second day in Washington to discuss renewing peace talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his vision of a state of Palestine does not include any Israeli settlers or soldiers.
"In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli -- civilian or soldier -- on our lands," Abbas told reporters during a visit to Cairo.
His comments, Abbas’ first public statement since the U.S.-brokered peace process resumed, drew immediate condemnation from Israeli officials, who accused him discriminating against Jews.
There are about 650,000 Jewish residents living on land seized by Israel during the 1967 Mideast war, including parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Abbas called their presence illegal.
The issue of the settlements will be one of the thorniest to face U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry as he attempts to revive the peace process.
In Israel, government officials Tuesday tried to assure the public that settlement construction in the West Bank would not be frozen, though it may be limited during the next nine months while peace talks take place.
According to Israeli media reports, Israel will allow about 1,000 units to be built, most of which were already in the pipeline.
But one unidentified Israeli official told Israel Radio that the government would try to keep a low profile on the issue to avoid upsetting the negotiations.
“One must act wisely [so as] not to give the Palestinians an excuse to blow everything up and blame us,” one unnamed official told Israel Radio.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni emphasized Tuesday that talks would be kept secret to avoid leaks from sabotaging progress.
“What happens in the room stays in the room,” she said.