Israel’s controversial separation wall underscores accusations that it is seeking to edge out Arabs. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI
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The controversy over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is rooted in the clashing historical narratives of the decades-old conflict.Netanyahu insists the demand gets to the very heart of the conflict, which he says is the refusal of Arabs to accept the right of Jews to a nation-state in the Middle East.For Israel, the Zionist dream was realized in 1948, but for Palestinians that year brought the "Nakba," or catastrophe, when 760,000 fled or were forced out of their homeland.The Palestinians fear that accepting Israel as a "Jewish state" would amount to relinquishing the "right of return" of the refugees – who now number some 5 million people – and undermine the rights of Israel's sizable Arab minority.Israel opposes the return of the refugees and their descendents, arguing that it would destroy the state's national and religious character by making Jews a minority.
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