Israel could cease to exist as Jewish state – warns Peres

Jerusalem: Israeli President Shimon Peres has warned that his country could cease to exist as a Jewish state, becoming a binational one, if the deadlock in peace talks with the Palestinians continues.

Peres also warned that Israel`s future is "doomed" if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s government continues with the current policy of "foot dragging", which may soon lead to its isolation in the international community.

"I`m concerned about the continued freeze (in the peace talks)," the Nobel laureate President was quoted by daily Ha`aretz as saying to people who visited him this week.

"I`m concerned that Israel will become a binational state. What is happening now is total foot-dragging. We`re about to crash into the wall. We`re galloping at full speed toward a situation where Israel will cease to exist as a Jewish state," he said.

Peres this week completed four years in office, but people who met him this week found his mood far from festive, the daily said.

He reportedly prophesied that Israel would be "doomed" unless negotiations with the Palestinians leading to a peace agreement began in the immediate future.

"Whoever accepts the basic principle of the 1967 lines will receive international support. Whoever rejects it will lose the world," he said in a sharp criticism to Prime Minister Netanyahu`s vehement objection to starting peace talks on the basis of the 1967 lines, which he called "indefensible" in both the Knesset and the US Congress.

However, Peres continues to reject the advice of friends and various political figures that he come out openly against Netanyahu`s positions.

"I`m not the head of the opposition, I`m the state`s President," Ha`aretz quoted him as repeatedly emphasising.

He also voiced concerns that Israel might be subjected to economic boycotts and sanctions.

"There`s no need for boycotts. It would suffice for ports in Europe or Canada to stop unloading Israeli merchandise. It`s already beginning", the President noted.

"September is only a date," he said, referring to Palestinian plans to seek UN recognition as a state then, adding, "The question is what will happen before and after."

The Palestinian leadership has threatened that it will seek UN General Assembly`s recognition for an independent state within 1967 borders if the deadlock in peace talks continues.

Peace talks broke down in September last year over Palestinian demands that Israel declare a total freeze on construction activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu, whose government overwhelmingly relies on the support of its right-wing coalition partners, has been resisting the move and called the 1967 borders as "indefensible" recently in his address to the US Congress.