President Obama’s Middle East speech of last week created much controversy surrounding his call for the 1949 armistice lines (commonly called the pre-June 1967 borders) to be the starting point of any territorial negotiations.
“You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about….
They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.”
My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”
In his Middle East address President Obama called Israel a Jewish State…
“The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation…. a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people
…and he called for Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist,
“Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
“I believe that Hamas, in its own description of its agenda, has not renounced violence and has not recognized the state of Israel. And until they do, it is very difficult to expect Israelis to have a serious conversation, because ultimately they have to have confidence that a Palestinian state is one that is going to stick to its — to whatever bargain is struck.”
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State is a larger issue than how to describe a particular nation. Once Israel is recognized as a Jewish State the Palestinian demand for a right of return for the descendants of the original refugees within the borders of Israel is resolved also. Being a democracy, if Israel allows herself to be flooded with millions of the descendants of those 1948 refugees, she will cease to be the Jewish State. Instead Israel will be just another Muslim country in the Middle East.
Last summer in an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel President Abbas said,
“We recognized the State of Israel within the 1967 borders. Whether it defines itself as a Jewish state, a Hebrew state or a Zionist state is its business. As far as I’m concerned, it can call itself what it pleases. But he cannot force me to agree with this definition.”
In October when negotiations were going on to convince PM Netanyahu to extend the Judea and Samaria building freeze, he made the offer to President Abbas to extend the settlement building freeze if the Palestinians agreed to recognize Israel as the Jewish State. Abbas replied almost imminently with a resounding no.
These omissions by President Obama are no accident. If he overtly called for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish State he would be negating the Palestinian demand for a right to return, which is why he said the “Right of Return” is something to be left to negotiation.
“These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I know that these steps alone will not resolve this conflict. Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.”
The President’s Middle East speech has been called “bold” by world leaders and American leaders; however the truth is that he intentionally ignored the most elementary of issues in this 63-year-old dispute, recognizing Israel as the Jewish State.
If the President does not have the courage to definitively call for the Palestinians to make this basic acknowledgement, can he really expect the Palestinians to do it on their own? And without that recognition, none of the other issues will be resolved.