America seems to be the loopy, crazy-aunt ally that requires endless forgiveness these days. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki made headlines on Saturday because of comments in an interview with Al-Quds, the Palestinian Arabic news outlet, in which she said the following:
Psaki, who spoke to the PA-based Arabic-language Al-Quds newspaper, said, “The American position is clear, Israel is a Jewish state. However, we do not see a need that both sides recognize this position as part of the final agreement.”
As Arutz Sheva points out, this unhelpful comment came just two days after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas went on record with a categorical refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinians will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state at a meeting with students in Ramallah, Israel Radio reported on Friday.
There is “no way” that he will agree to recognition, Abbas was quoted as saying by Palestinian news agency WAFA.
The Arab League chimed in on Sunday with its own refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state:
“The council of the Arab League confirms its support for the Palestinian leadership in its effort to end the Israeli occupation over Palestinian lands, and emphasizes its rejection of recognizing Israel as a ‘Jewish state’,” Arab foreign ministers said in a statement in Cairo.
The Reuters piece makes this delicate point:
Arab governments, distracted by the upheaval convulsing the region since the 2011 Arab uprisings, have previously taken few stands on the floundering peace talks, leaving Abbas isolated.
Odd that they weigh in so suddenly and trenchantly the day after the U.S. State Department’s spokeswoman disavows an American interest in recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
The point of requiring this recognition is so that neither Abbas nor others in the Arab world will press for a demographic invasion of Israel as part of a two-state peace agreement. Daniel Pipes laid out clearly in an article from a year ago the unvarying historical precedent for assuming Israel was and is to be a Jewish state, and the latter-day launch of a Palestinian negotiating theme – in 2006 – to undermine that precedent. Because of this new theme, Benjamin Netanyahu, when he came to office again in 2009, began to emphasize anew the importance of Israel’s recognition as a Jewish state in any peace agreement.
And in 2013, Barack Obama actually affirmed the U.S. interest in that recognition by the Palestinian Arabs. In his March 2013 piece, Pipes observes that in 2011, Obama spoke generally of establishing two states, one Jewish and one “Palestinian.” But in his speech in Jerusalem in March 2013, Obama said this:
Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state.
He was explicit, in other words, about the requirement for recognition from the Palestinians. (See also Fresno Zionism.) And again, as Pipes points out, that emphasis was a new one in U.S. policy communications, apparently in response to the shift in talking points a few years ago on the Palestinian side.
In February 2014, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, spoke in line with Obama’s 2013 statement, telling an Israel Radio interviewer that any peace framework would include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state:
Shapiro sounded confident that, in a final-status agreement, the Palestinians — indeed, the entire Arab world — would have to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and will remain as such.
“I assume that under the framework that we’re currently preparing — that we’ll see that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as the nation state of the Jewish people” he said. “And in the end, we’ll need to know that this is the end of the conflict, and that’s one way of verifying that… that everyone in the region and all of [Israel’s] neighbors will accept that there is a nation state of the Jewish people here, in the Jewish homeland.”
So Ms. Psaki’s statement conflicted directly with previously articulated U.S. policy. Whether John Kerry has her statement “clarified” in a meaningful, conclusive way will depend on how serious he is about getting the peace agreement he has been plumping for so determinedly in recent months.
Of course, given Abbas’s and the Arab League’s unqualified refusals to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, there are probably no credible assurances the U.S. can give Israel at this point. Obama and Kerry are non-credible messengers now, after both of them have threatened Israel with abandonment by the United States if Netanyahu doesn’t accept an agreement with the Palestinians, regardless of how disadvantageous the terms might be. William Jacobson put it this way at Legal Insurrection:
The Obama administration [is] twisting Bibi’s arm off as to John Kerry’s “framework” under the threat of the U.S. stepping aside from defending Israel against the worldwide, decades-long lawfare and boycott movement.
And with a perfect storm of non-credibility building for American power – stymied in Syria, duped by Iran, steamrolled by Russia in Ukraine – Israel can’t reasonably be expected to base any security decisions in the next three years on U.S. assurances. At this point, virtually everyone outside the Obama White House – even, perhaps, most in the echo chamber of the mainstream media – sees that clearly.