Two recent events inspired me to write about Israel as the Jewish State, something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, perhaps as long as I can remember. The first was the recently uncovered video clip of Yassar Arafat acknowledging Israel as the Jewish State, which you can view in this post (Thank you YouTube). The second was U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry’s statement to Congress that Israel was making a great mistake by asking/ demanding it.
Proof positive of the founder of Palestinian nationalism’s acknowledgement of Israel as the Jewish State would give Abbas the O.K. to do the same if he really desired to do everything necessary for peace.
‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in Resolution 181 where there are more than 40– 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ . In addition, chairman Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004 confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state. And there are any other number of mentions.
John Kerry March 2014
Is Kerry saying that this most misunderstood and misrepresented concept, International Law, accepts that Israel is the Jewish State but nevertheless Israel should cede its rights under International Law to be the Jewish State simply to bring Abbas to the table? It certainly seems so. I doubt he is tendering the same advise to Ukraine over Crimea.
The Palestinian counter offensive was predictable. Israel’s pressure on Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state is an attempt to legalize “racism”, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said Saturday. That all members of the Arab League are constitutionally Arab states despite non-Arab minorities and, with the single exception of Lebanon, all are constitutionally Muslim states despite non-Muslim minorities is apparently not racism.
BTW Does the PLO still exist in any meaningful way, anymore?
She said defining Israel as a Jewish state would signify that any Jewish person would have the right to return to Palestine, while Palestinians would lose that right. One could argue you can’t lose a right you never had but isn’t any other result a non starter. If the two-state solution is not an Arab state next to a Jewish state, what is it?
Mahmud Abbas has essentially defined his vision of the two-state solution. It will be a Judenrein† Palestinian state next to an Israeli state of all its people with the addition of seven million Arab ‘refugees’, some who had once lived in the British Mandate of Palestine but mostly their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. A corridor to Gaza would cut it in two. Most of the important Jewish religious sites would then become Palestinian with access to Jews, if at all, at the whim of the Arab authorities.
It would appear, Hanan Ashrawi has accepted the Abbas concept in its entirety although why either thinks the Jews could be persuaded that is in their best interest is unclear. Probably they know that will not happen and are hoping for international pressure to achieve what 65 years of warfare couldn’t?
The Arab League takes a different tack. Accepting Israel as the Jewish State would they asserted lead to discrimination against the non-Jewish citizens of Israel and possibly provide grounds for their expulsion. There is more than a hint of hypocrisy in this stance. Israeli Arabs have more genuine freedom than anywhere in the Middle East, including it is important to add the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. No Israeli leader has suggested either the expulsion of Arab citizens or a reduction in their rights and/or conditions so the ‘fear’ seems more a projection of their intent for the Jews on Israel as much as any genuine, rational apprehension.
Veteran Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat has said, We won’t change our history, culture and religion. We are not going to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He has also made the ludicrous claim that his family lived in Palestine for 9,000 years. Elder of Ziyyon has shown that like so many Palestinians his family are quite recent immigrants. Put simply his (false) identity only exists by negating the identity of the Jews.
On a slight tangent. Last week I attended a conference in Jerusalem where several of the speakers had attended the Christ at the Checkpoint conference. They said that the now familiar Jesus was a Palestinian claim was repeated but significantly they have in many cases appropriated Jewish history as Palestinian. So the revolt against Roman occupation at around the time of Jesus is not just like the ‘occupation’ by Israel of Palestine, it was the first intifada of Palestinians against occupation. The Jews have been replaced. Is this the history to which Erekat refers?
To accept Israel as a Jewish state is a double Muslim blasphemy
The elephant in the room is Islam. For some reason the analysts, the politicians and the activists on every side seem determined not to acknowledge its presence and how much space it takes in the negotiations (if that is what they really are).
Firstly, as the Hamas Covenant, so clearly puts it:
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. No Arab country nor the aggregate of all Arab countries, and no Arab King or President nor all of them in the aggregate, have that right, nor has that right any organization or the aggregate of all organizations, be they Palestinian or Arab, because Palestine is an Islamic Waqf throughout all generations and to the Day of Resurrection.
That would be a big NO!
Secondly, because the relationship between Muslim and Jew (and Christian) is fixed by Islamic law. Jews are Dhimmis, ‘protected’ persons who, at least in theory, suffer no harm so long as they accept their subservient status. Under no circumstances are they allowed to rule over Muslims. Even if they remain an absolute majority and maintain control by democratic elections Islam according to all schools of jurisprudence can’t condone it. While wearing his PLO hat, Abbas makes non-negotiable demands for the democratic, secular state of Israel of its people. That is too much for the Islamists. They demand a state under Sharia law, that is a Muslim state.
Abbas is very aware of this as he is aware of the power of Muslim theology, even among those nominally loyal to the Palestinian Authority.
He is rather like a tightrope walker at the circus. His position is difficult but stable and accustomed. True, he can’t lean, very far, either way because he might fall but he performs his act every night, without a safety net.
Sadly he can’t make any of the concessions that he knows are necessary for Israel’s acquiescence because his Muslim opposition and his own ‘supporters’ may end his apparent president-for-life reign in a manner closer to Ceaușescu than George Bush (41).
On one hand when he is wearing his Fatah chairman hat‡ he is committed to continuing war when conditions for victory improve. On the other he can’t appear too determined not to seriously negotiate lest the money flow that keeps the PA solvent, from Europe and America, dry up. He can’t go to war because he would lose but he can’t stop threatening in case he is seen to be weak. What he can do, and has done frequently, is to present himself as the one seeking peace negotiations while adding to a list of non negotiable conditions before he will enter negotiations.
He is in effect negotiating with America on how to put pressure on Israel rather than using America as a someone to help understand their common objectives and without taking a particular position in the discussion. The really annoying thing is it is far from certain Messrs. Obama and Kerry realise that.
But Israel didn’t insist on recognition as a Jewish State before making peace with Egypt or Jordan
Clearly that’s a good point but not conclusive. There are many differences between Sadat and Hussein on one hand and Abbas on the other. The peacemakers had control in their respective states while it is doubtful Abbas controls Ramallah. He certainly has zero control or even influence in Gaza. If they wanted to, and I’m far from sure that the Fatah co-founder and Arafat acolyte wants to, they could deliver on any promises.
As mentioned earlier Abbas wears several hats. He is Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, President of the Palestinian Authority which he prematurely refers to as the State of Palestine and Head of Fatah. All three groups have different positions on negotiating with Israel.
In addition, and it’s a huge factor, Israel trusted and respected the Egyptian and Jordanian ruler. Do even the majority of Palestinians trust Abu Mazen?
Is recognition as a Jewish State really necessary?
The logic of the demand is clear. Significantly none of the Palestinian negotiators has ever declared that a negotiated agreement would be the end of the conflict. Recognition of Israel as the Jewish state would do that. Probably this is exactly why Abbas doesn’t.
It seems the moderate position adopted by Abbas is for a Muslim and Arab Palestinian State where the Jews are expelled and no Israeli military force is allowed. Some versions extend that to no Jews even in UN or other forces. By contrast the Israel will be a democratic, secular state of its citizens. That is, the 20% of the current non-Jewish, mostly Arab citizens and residents, would remain plus another seven million Palestinian so-called refugees. For the record there are no democratic, secular states in the Arab world.
This moderation would create an Arab state with no Jews in Palestine and an Arab majority state in Israel. So what is Israel expected to make all those concessions for? Even the Israeli Left see that as suicidal.
Secondly, even as a negotiating tactic the Jewish State demand has value. Abbas, and Arafat before him, succeeded fairly well by constantly reselling the same bridge. They haven’t achieved Israel’s destruction but they stay alive; are welcome visitors in every world capital and the money keeps flowing. The Jewish State demand is a counter offer in a shuk where the Arab side keeps raising the price.
Finally, and perhaps counter intuitively, keeping Israel as a Jewish state is in the interest of the Arabs who live there. The entirely unlikely event that Israel agree to Palestinian non-negotiable demands there would result in a capital/population flight on the lines of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) after the fall of the Smith government. Many or most of those Jews who could leave would leave either voluntarily or fleeing the chaos that doubling the population with people lacking the skills or incentive to make the state work and who have been incited since birth that killing Jews is a religious/national imperative. Investment both by Jews supporting the Jewish homeland and international corporations would stop.
Israel, not that the name would remain long, as the Arabs democratically vote to abandon it, would become a real part of the Middle East, at last. Heaven help us.
Is there an alternative to recognition as a Jewish state?
Egypt avoided the issue by having Sadat’s tame imans declare that Egypt and Israel were in a hudna – a ten-year truce that could be renewed if Israel remained militarily undefeatable. Not exactly reassuring but necessary. The peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted thirty-five years, so far but, as noted, Abbas is no Sadat, Mubarak or even Morsi. Hamas have made it clear they would not agree.
If recognition of Israel as the Jewish State is impossible, isn’t it about time for the Palestinian negotiators to make some genuine confidence building gesture? For that matter shouldn’t the supporters of Israel be making it clear what we want from the Palestinians?
I’ll be blogging about that soon.
- Kerry: Netanyahu wrong to insist Palestinians recognize Israel as Jewish state, Michael Wilner, Jerusalem Post, 14 March 2014
- Video: Arafat Recognizes Israel as a Jewish State, Yair Rosenberg, Tablet, 13 March 2014
- It’s not just semantics, Carl in Jerusalem, Israel Matzav, April 28, 2009
- Sultan Abdul Aziz founder of Saudi gives Palestine away, SaebPress, 2 November 2011
- Ha’aretz Corrects Jewish State Error, CAMERA, 12 March 2014
- Scoop: Fatah’s New Charter Shows Why Peace Won’t Happen, Barry Rubin, The Rubin Report, 30 January 2010
- The State Department’s Campaign Against the ‘Jewish State’ Idea—in 1954, Rafael Medoff , the algemeiner, 20 march 2014
- Joint Arab-Jewish agreement on Jewish Homeland, January 3, 1918, Joseph E. Katz, Eretz Yisroel.org, based on Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine” by Samuel Katz, 1970
† Empty of Jews. This was the phrase the Nazis used to describe their plans for then future Europe.
‡ Revolution is our path to freedom, independence, and construction. It is a revolution until victory.
In accordance with the Basic Charter ratified by Fatah’s Fourth General Conference held in Tunis in 1989.