One of the main points that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu raises, when talking about what it would take to achieve success in “direct” negotiations with the present Palestinian leadership, is the necessity for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “state for the Jewish people”.
This is an improved formulation over the earlier version (which former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon included in Israel’s 14 reservations to the U.S.-backed Road Map in 2003) of requiring acceptance of a “Jewish State”.
However, there is no real clarity about what, exactly, that would mean. Palestinians fear it is formula to withdraw rights and citizenship from the one million or so (20-25% of Israel’s population) who are Palestinian Arabs, and that it also means agreement acquiescence in wiping out any and all residual claims of some 4 or 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in a diaspora around the world.
So far, it is a dialog of the deaf.
Palestinians of almost all political views react with outrage, anger… and smoldering fury.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is reported to have just said, in New York, that “Israel can call itself… the Jewish-Zionist Empire”, if it wants. This is reported on YNet, here.
Now, according to a report today in the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon caused a spat with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at a periodic meeting of major donors at UNHQ in New York. According to the JPost’version, “Ayalon refused to approve a summary of the meeting which said ‘two states’ but did not include the words ‘two states for two peoples’ … What I say is that if the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about’, Ayalon told the Post in a telephone interview. ‘And also, I said if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen … I also said that I don’t need the Palestinians to say Israel is a Jewish state in Hebrew. I need them to say it in Arabic to their own people’.” This JPost report is published here.
So, what does that mean, exactly? Each state should have only one people? You can see where this is leading… it’s confirming the worst fears of the Palestinians, of course. What I have written, in the past, in several places, is that the Palestinians have already accepted Israel as a Jewish State when Yasser Arafat issued the Declaration of Independence of the
Palestinian State in November 1988, then more explicitly (at U.S. insistence) in December 1988 — which explicitly accepts
the UN General Assembly resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, partitioning the British mandate of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish.
The Palestinians seem to have forgotten…
Earlier, according to the same YNet report, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu “told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that the recognition would be a central part of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘Just say it’, Netanyahu called on Abbas. ‘Say yes to a Jewish state’. The prime minister explained that he was insisting on this because ‘this is a move the Palestinians have refused to make for 62 years. Its significance is Palestinian recognition of the right of the Jewish people to self-definition in their historic homeland. I recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-definition, so they must do the same for the Jewish people’.”
In an interview with Ma’an News agency, also according to this YNet report, Abbas reportedly said that “if Israel wants negotiations in which the Palestinians recognize it, then it must also recognize a Palestinian state”.
By coincidence, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about this whole matter in an interview for Palestine TV conducted by Maher Shalabi (who did the extraordinarily embarassing “The Cedar and the Olive Tree” program in refugee camps in Lebanon recently, in which he grandly handed out $100 U.S. dollar bills after asking stupid questions like, “What is the capitol of Palestine?”).
Here is an excerpt:
” (Maher Shalabi of Palestine TV) QUESTION: I mean, when you talk about Jewish state —
SECRETARY CLINTON: “Yes”.
QUESTION: — don’t you think you’re imposing the outcome of the negotiation and many times, you’re saying, “We want to impose the outcome”?
SECRETARY CLINTON: “Well, of course, that, to me, is a fact, that if you go back and look at the original UN documents, and even if you look at some of the PLO documents over the last many years, everyone recognizes that Israel is a homeland for Jewish people. Palestinians have the right to work toward a homeland for themselves. And I don’t think that takes anything away from either side in saying that”. The full transcript of this interview is available on the State Department website, here.