Arab League rejects Israel as Jewish homeland _lowres

Associated Press photo by Nasser Waggi -- Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, right, and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil El Araby, left, attend the closing session of the Arab League Summit at Bayan Palace, Kuwait, on Wednesday.

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Arab leaders said Wednesday they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, blaming it for a lack of progress in the Mideast peace process.

The statement, which came at the end of a two-summit in Kuwait, also rejected what the Arab League described as the continuation of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

The League’s announcement that it will not recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people rejects a key demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Mideast peace talks.

Netanyahu believes there cannot be peace without such a recognition. The Palestinians oppose this, saying it harms the rights of Palestinian refugees displaced from what is now Israel, as well as those of Israel’s Arab minority.

“We hold Israel entirely responsible for the lack of progress in the peace process and continuing tension in the Middle East, the League communique said. “We express our absolute and decisive rejection to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.”

It also added that it rejected what it said was the “the continuation of settlements, Judaization of Jerusalem and attacks in its Muslim and Christian shrines and changing its demographics and geography.” The statement did not elaborate.

Wednesday’s announcement sets the stage for the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to take a tough line in talks later in the day with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jordan.

Kerry arrived in Jordan on Wednesday in hopes of jump-starting the foundering peace talks. He is meeting with King Abdullah II before a working dinner with Abbas. A State Department spokeswoman said Kerry also will talk with Netanyahu in the next few days.