The Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish State has become a hot issue over the past week. Media outlets such as the AP, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor have all written commentary about the history of and reasons for Israel’s demand. Most of the “facts” presented have been wrong.
Despite what some commenters say, the demand that Israel be recognized as the Jewish State was not an invention of Binyamin Netanyahu. It actually predates the first “official” Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians during the Rabin administration in 1992.
Reversing policy the President outlined a year ago, Secretary of State Kerry said last week that Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians officially recognize it as a Jewish state is a mistake, adding that the issue should not be a critical factor in whether the current round of Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations succeeds or fails.
Kerry pointed out 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. He also pointed out that Yasser Arafat confirmed that he agreed Israel would be a Jewish state” in 1988 and in 2004.
Since Arafat did not commit his people to the “Jewish state” stance via some sort of written agreement with Israel, the dead terrorist’s words are meaningless. Instead of pointing out that Arafat recognized Israel as a Jewish state, perhaps Kerry should be asking Mahmoud Abbas why he refuses to recognize a demand that Arafat agreed to when Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon were Prime Ministers. But those weren’t the record of the demand, or a response to the demand.
In 2003 President George W. Bush developed his roadmap to peace. Ariel Sharon was PM, and one of Israel’s objections to Bush’s document was:
In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel. [Emphasis added]
When Ehud Olmert was Prime Minister, he directed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to make the demand in 2007 during negotiations. According to a transcript of the negotiations, it was a bone of contention.
TZIPI LIVNI: I just want to say something.… Our idea is to refer to two states for two peoples. Or two nation states, Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security with each state constituting the homeland for its people and the fulfillment of their national aspirations and self-determination…
AKRAM HANIYEH (Palestinian Negotiator): This refers to the Israeli people?
LIVNI: [Visibly angered.] I think that we can use another session – about what it means to be a Jew and that it is more than just a religion. But if you want to take us back to 1947 — it won’t help. Each state constituting the homeland for its people and the fulfillment of their national aspirations and self-determination in their own territory. Israel the state of the Jewish people – and I would like to emphasize the meaning of “its people” is the Jewish people — with Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of Israel and of the Jewish people for 3007 years… [The Palestinian team protests.] You asked for it. [AHMED QUEREI: We said East Jerusalem!] …and Palestine for the Palestinian people. We did not want to say that there is a “Palestinian people” but we’ve accepted your right to self-determination.
The demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state isn’t new for Netanyahu, either. In June 2009, Netanyahu made the demand in his first public speech as Prime Minister about the peace process:
I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. The goal has to be an end to conflict. There will have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself.
In October 2010, Netanyahu made recognition of Israel as Jewish State a pre-condition for an extension of the “settlement” freeze. As reported by Al Jazeera, the answer was a resounding no:
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has offered to renew a partial settlement construction freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state…. Netanyahu’s proposal met with swift rejection from senior Palestinian officials.
Netanyahu reiterated his demand in a speech to the U.S. Congress in May 2011:
If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.
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.
Abbas’ hardline refusal to recognize Israel is part of the stated strategy to destroy Israel. The “right of return” is a plan to flood the Jewish State with the original refugees, their kids, their second cousins on their mother’s side, etc. 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.
This point was even recognized in the Democratic Party platform until 2012. The Jerusalem plank was taken out and eventually returned. There were three other pro-Israel planks taken out and not returned. One was:
The parties should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel.
The recognition of the Jewishness of Israel is recognition of the Jewish people’s historic attachment to the land and to its holy places. Any Palestinian recognition needs to include recognition that Israel is the continuation of thousands of years of Jewish history and therefore Israel has a right to exist.
As recently reported by Palestinian Media Watch:
On numerous occasions when archeological finds with Jewish symbols and Hebrew texts were uncovered that illustrate aspects of Jewish history in Israel, the PA hastened to tell Palestinians that Israel invented the story, distorted it or even planted the finds. When Israeli archeologists last year displayed gold artifacts with Jewish symbols, such as a menorah and a shofar, found 50 meters from the Western Wall in Jerusalem, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei immediately denied its authenticity on official PA TV: “I think all this is a forgery, forgery of the truth. It’s all an attempt to make claims. They did not find anything.” (Official PA TV, September 11, 2013).
Today, Palestinian children are taught that the Jewish connection to the land is a fraud. For a long term peace that recognition of the lands Jewishness must be immediately integrated Palestinian children’s education and public discourse. Without this recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, the cessation of the conflict and recognition of “Israel” is only temporary.
Read more by Jeff Dunetz at his blog The Lid.