Demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state have become a major stumbling block in John Kerry’s search for a settlement to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Palestinians’ refusal to formally acknowledge the country’s Jewish character had become the key topic in his discussions with Mr Kerry.
Palestinian officials admitted that Mr Kerry has pressed the issue with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, who has so far refused to bend.
“The Americans have made it very clear that [recognition of Israel as a Jewish state] is their position,” one Palestinian official told The Daily Telegraph. “They talk about it in meetings with our side and make an issue out of it. We have made it very clear that we are not going to sign any agreement that recognises Israel as a Jewish state.”
Israel as a Jewish State is not a strange idea; in fact throughout its history, the Jewish people have recognized themselves as a religion/nation tied to a specific land. Which is why United Nations Resolution 181, the original partition resolution passed by the UN in November 1947, called for dividing Palestine into Independent Arab and Jewish States.
Israel’s Independence Proclamation (it has no constitution) refers to the new state’s Jewish nature no less than 19 times and as well as guaranteeing equal rights to all inhabitants “irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
The Magen David (Jewish Star) on the Flag of Israel is also a public affirmation of Israel’s Jewishness.
So why hasn’t the question of Israel’s Jewish become an issue before this Prime Minister? The simple answer is that the Palestinians didn’t make it an issue. Take a look at the history.
From 1948-1967 there was no issue with what is today called the Palestinian territories, the West Bank was part of Jordan, Gaza was part of Egypt. BTW the PLO began its terrorist activities in 1964–before the Six-Day-War.
Israel has only been negotiating with the Palestinians for approximately 20 years. Until Oslo in 1993 the Palestinians believed they could destroy the Jewish State militarily. Afterward their goal changed. As I described in a Hot Air piece on Sunday morning:
While the number of Palestinian refugees in 1949 was somewhere around 800,000 (there were 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab states) today the number is over 4 million. The Palestinian refugees are the only example in history where the number of refugees has grown without a population shift. These refugees are also unique in that the UN counts the original refugees, their children, grandchildren, first cousin twice removed on their mother’s side, friends etc. as refugees.
Abbas’ hardline refusal to recognize Israel is part of the stated strategy to destroy Israel. The purpose of this unique artificial growth is one of the stated Palestinian goals is to flood Israel (within the green lines) with Palestinian Muslims. Being a democracy, if Israel allows herself to be flooded with those 1948 refugees’ along with 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
But still it didn’t become an issue, because the deal that Arafat had negotiated (and then walked away from) in 1999 with Israeli PM Barak, did not include the Palestinians flooding Israel with the extended families of refugees. Arafat had negotiated a symbolic right of return of only 50,000, so the question of Israel’s Jewishness was not an issue.
After Arafat walked away from the deal and started the Second Intifada, Ariel Sharon became PM. By then there were no negotiations, Sharon was trying to stop the horrible wave of terrorism. The next PM Ehud Olmert proposed a similar deal as Barak, so again it was not an issue.
In 2010 as negotiations were still going on, Fatah the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority issued a new Charter.
The Internal Charter of Abbas’ Fatah Party written in 2010 did not remove Fatah’s rejection of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state (or any other kind of state) nor did it remove its support of terrorism against Israel. It speaks of
“sacrific[ing] our souls, blood, time and effort. All these are the weapons of the revolutionaries … our tragedy continued throughout all those long years. You must know that our enemy is strong and the battle is ferocious and long. You must know that determination, patience, secrecy, confidentiality, adherence to the principles and goals of the revolution, keep us from stumbling and shorten the path to liberation. Go forward to revolution. Long live Palestine, free and Arab!”
The Charter speaks of the “enemy” and does not mention accepting Israel as a Jewish state or even as a state.
Also, it does not mention any replacement of the Fatah Constitution, which calls for
“Opposing any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine” (Article 22) and insists that “Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated” (Article 19).
Therefore even if Abbas means what he says about “recognizing” Israel and can convince his party to go along, based on the Charter and the Constitution that recognition is useless without the rest of the sentence “…as a Jewish State.“
Netanyahu’s reaction to the 2010 action was to make sure the Palestinians would stop their quest to destroy Israel by flooding the country with the extended families of the refugees, he moved the Jewish State demand from the background to an overt issue.
In October 2010 negotiations were going on to convince Netanyahu to extend the Judea and Samaria building freeze. Netanyahu made a very simple offer to the PA. If you were to recognize Israel as the Jewish State, we will extend building freeze indefinitely. As reported by Al Jazeera the answer was a resounding no:
Netanyahu’s proposal met with swift rejection from senior Palestinian officials.
“The whole world holds Netanyahu responsible for what is happening in the region, after he chose to push ahead with the settlement project at the expense of an advance in the peace process. Settlement freeze is a commitment Netanyahu should respect,” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told Al Jazeera.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior official of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, described the settlement issue as “an aggression on Palestinian rights and land”.
“What Israel calls itself is an Israeli matter that does not concern us. The two issues are not related,” he told Al Jazeera in reference to Netanyahu’s condition that Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
Nabil Abu Rudainah, the spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said a return to peace talks required a freeze on settlement building by Israel.
“The issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter,” he told the Reuters news agency. According to Al Jazzeera Abbas replied almost imminently with a resounding no.
The “I recognize Israel” quote is nothing but a ruse…time and time again the Palestinians have refused to recognize the JEWISH State of Israel. And the only reason to reject that recognition is that the Palestinians ultimate goal (as stated) is the destruction the Jewish State if Israel.