U.S. recognition of Israel in 1948

Here is the document – marked up by Truman himself:

Truman letter of 14 May 1948

It might be said that this was the first U.S. recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, though a whole polemic has grown up around Truman’s personally crossing out the second reference on the document…

More recently, Glenn Kessler wrote from Washington in the Washington Post late last year (2 October 2010) that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, in a speech in November 2001, that “Palestinians must eliminate any doubt, once and for all, that they accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state“.

After an internet search, I found this Colin Powell speech posted here and here.

BUT, Kessler wrote in his recent WPost (or WAPO) article, “Powell doesn’t recall how the phrase ended up in his speech” … “David Ivry, then Israeli amb to US, says he ‘persuaded an aide’to slip Jewish state reference in Colin Powell 2001 speech…Kessler wrote that David Ivry said he contacted Powell aide Richard Armitage, but Powell said that he asked and Armitage doesn’t remember this either … However, Kessler reported, “Aaron David Miller…who wrote 1st draft of Powell speech, said..[the reference to the need for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state]..didn’t ring many alarm bells“… This October 2010 article by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post is published here.

So, the Israeli Ambassador whispered into the ears of some U.S. State Department officials, and Powell mentioned it in his 2001 speech — and now only Aaron David Miller remembers how the reference [to the need for Palestinian acceptance of “the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State”] got into the this Powell speech?!

Next reference is a clear Israeli demand, in point 13 of Ariel Sharon’s May 2003 list of 14 “reservations”, or objections, to the American/European/Quartet’s Road Map: “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”…

Then, it comes up again only in 2007, as a demand (ignored by Palestinian negotiators by Ehud Olmert at the start of the American-led Annapolis process of Direct Negotiations…

Now, it is an insistent demand of Benyamin Netanyahu (recognition as a Jewish State, or alternative version as the “state of the Jewish people:) every time the American administration of Barack Obama mentions anything about resuming talks with the Palestinians…

And recently Obama has shown, again [in his two speeches in May, the first at the State Department, the second to AIPAC], that for the U.S., at least, there is no problem to say that Israel is a Jewish State, or the homeland of the Jewish people. Obama’s words, in May, were: “A lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people”.
Continue reading U.S. recognition of Israel in 1948

Israeli PM Netanyahu says his very clear policy is the same … maybe

The Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) sent around via email to journalists this transcript of selected remarks made in an interview yesterday of Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, as interviewed by Israel’s Channel 10 TV:

Prime Minister Netanyahu: I have set very clear policy; I did this in my 14.6.09 Bar-Ilan University speech. [The full transcript in English-language translation is posted here] There I said as follows: If the Palestinians recognize a Jewish State, if they shelve the idea of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, if they have a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state – I tell you here and now that I will go with this to the end and that no coalition consideration will stop me, and I have no doubt that a majority will support me.

Question: “Then perhaps [Foreign] Minister [Avigdor] Liberman is correct when he says, ‘Let us go for a long-range interim agreement and not a permanent agreement immediately, within a year, like you want?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “If we get into this discussion, we will likely hit a wall; a wall named Jerusalem, perhaps a wall named refugees. It could be that the result would be an interim agreement. It’s possible. I do not rule this out, including in the talks that we have held. I said that it’s possible. If we say this in advance, it is not certain they will come so easily. But it could be the result of a diplomatic process; I am not certain that it should be its primary goal.”

Question: “Are you indicating a possible change in policy, which says that there will be additional phases, the transfer of additional areas to the Palestinians, as you have already done in the past?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I am not going into details on this.”

Ma’an News Agency reported later that “A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas shot down the suggestion. ‘For the Palestinians, any suggestion of reaching an interim agreement is unacceptable because it omits Jerusalem and the issue of refugees’, he said. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also dismissed Netanyahu’s suggestion, saying: ‘interim solutions are rejected part and parcel … It’s now time for final solutions that include Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security, settlements, water and the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails’, he said … Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began in Washington on September 2. But they stalled when a partial 10-month freeze on Israeli settlement building expired on September 26. The Palestinians refused to resume negotiations without a new moratorium and Washington admitted on December 7 that it had failed to convince Israel to renew the building curbs. Palestinian negotiators have emphasized a set of alternatives to new talks, including seeking recognition of a Palestinian state along the borders that existed in 1967, before the Six Day War”. This was reported here.

Danny Ayalon gives a glimpse of what Israel officials mean by "a state for the Jewish people"

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.

Continue reading Danny Ayalon gives a glimpse of what Israel officials mean by "a state for the Jewish people"

Netanyahu calls for a demilitarized Palestinian state with ironclad security guarantees

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said, in a speech on Sunday night that was billed as a response to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world from Cairo on 4 June, that Palestinians are living in the Jewish homeland, and must recognize the Jewish right to be there.

Palestinians could live as a “free” people, side-by-side with the Jewish people, with each having its own “national existence”, Netanyahu said, if (1) they recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, and if (2) they agree that “the Palestinian entity must be demilitarized”, with Israel retaining a real defensive edge with “ironclad” security guarantees.

See our full analysis here.

The Israeli organization Peace Now responded to the Netanyahu speech with this critique:
“Bibi is still Bibi, perhaps more sophisticated but without a real message for the State of Israel.
Without vision, without a course of action and without any willingness to lead Israel to the necessary decisions, Netanyahu tried to remake himself, but even the pair of words ‘Palestinian state’ is no magic formula that can cover the political nakedness of Netanyahu and his government.
In Netanyahu’s vision of an upgraded autonomy called a ‘demilitarized Palestinian state’, the lives of the Palestinians will be dictated solely by the whims of the government of Israel in Jerusalem”…

Continue reading Netanyahu calls for a demilitarized Palestinian state with ironclad security guarantees

On the renewed demand for recognition of Israel as "Jewish State" or "State of the Jewish people"

In his latest weekly article, distributed by email and to a number of media outlets, veteran Israeli peace campaigner Uri Avnery takes on Benyamin Netanyahu’s lack of bustle and vigor during his first 100 days in office. Avnery wrote there are “No plans, no assistants, no team, no nothing. To this very minute, Netanyahu has not succeeded in putting together his personal team – a fundamental precondition for any effective action. He does not have a chief of staff, a most important position. In his office, chaos reigns supreme”.

On Netanyahu’s choice of ministers, Avnery wrote that “All these appointments look like the desperate efforts of a cynical politician who does not care about anything other than returning to power, and then quickly putting together a cabinet, whatever its composition, paying any price to any party prepared to join him, sacrificing even the most vital interests of the state”.

The worst problem, Avnery stated, is in the political field, “Because there the unpreparedness of Netanyahu meets the overpreparedness of Obama. Obama has a plan for the restructuring of the Middle East, and one of its elements is an Israeli-Palestinian peace based on ‘Two States for Two Peoples’. Netanyahu argues that he is not in a position to respond, because he has no plan of his own yet. After all, he is quite new in office. Now he is working on such a plan. Very soon, in a week, or a month, or a year, he will have a plan, a real plan, and he will present it to Obama. Or course, Netanyahu has a plan. It consists of one word, which he learned from his mentor, Yitzhak Shamir: ‘NO’. Or, more precisely, NO NO NO – the three no’s of the Israeli Khartoum: No peace, No withdrawal, No negotiations. (It will be remembered that the 1967 Arab summit conference in Khartoum, right after the Six-day War, adopted a similar resolution.) The ‘plan’ which he is working on does not really concern the essence of this policy, but only the packaging. How to present to Obama something that will not sound like ‘no’, but rather like ‘yes, but’ … As a taster for the ‘plan’, Netanyahu has already presented one of its ingredients: the demand that the Palestinians and other Arabs must recognize Israel as ‘the State of the Jewish People’.”

Continue reading On the renewed demand for recognition of Israel as "Jewish State" or "State of the Jewish people"

Time is running out …

This is not an endorsement, and I do not agree with everything he writes, but this column by Bradley Burston in his section in Haaretz called “A Special Place in Hell” has some wonderfully compassionate remarks, including:

“…[T]his month, three generations since 1948, since your Nakba, this is what I ask you to consider:

“Your time is running out.

“If you do not begin to act with all of your wisdom in moving toward statehood, you run the risk of becoming the Kurds of the Mediterranean basin, the Native Americans of the Middle East, permanently stateless, eternally denied.

“If you do not begin to rethink the course which the Palestinian national movement has taken, you must begin to consider the idea of a world without a Palestine. The world is beginning to feel more and more comfortable with that possibility, and it is time for you to think hard about the reasons why.

“We in the post-modern West have spent years educating ourselves to believe that all cultures are equally valid – with the possible exception, of course, of our own. We have taken it on faith that to criticize the culture of an indigenous people is obscenely imperialist, paternalist.

“In short, we gave you a pass. And we encouraged you to give yourselves one. In respecting you for your steadfastness, we refrained from calling you on your passivity. In accepting and amplifying your contentions as to Israel’s acts of wrongdoing, we chose not to hold you accountable for your own, or to explain them away as a function of occupation.

“You learned, over time, to hold Israel responsible for the whole of your plight. You learned, over time, to ignore, explain away, blame entirely on Israel, or otherwise deny the ways in which your actions and, in particular, your passivity, have deepened and fostered your misery. You learned to excuse your leaders their corruption, and their policy of foiling Israeli and foreign attempts to improve your conditions. You learned to excuse your Arab brothers their duplicity and their lip service and their exploitation and their cold shoulder and their contempt and their consummate failure to come to your aid.

“In the process, you may have grown accustomed to a definition of time, and of indigenous peoples, that bears re-examination. There is, first of all, this:

“The Jews are an indigenous people here, no less than you.

“The Jews have every right to have a nation here, no less than you.

“The Jews are stubborn and proud and fundamentally fierce as hell, no less than you.

“You have dismissed the Jews as a foreign influence. You have dismissed their history, waved away their blood and sinew tie to Jerusalem, acted as though they have no business here but evil.

“But in the decades you have spent misleading yourself about the true nature of the culture and the origins of the Jews, generation upon generation of Jews has been born here. They are natives. They are not going anywhere. And even the leftists among them are willing to die in defense of staying on this soil…”

The full Bradley Burston column published today, entitled The Palestinians’ Time is Running Out, can be read here .

More on racism and identity in Israel — and recognition of a Jewish State

Today’s Haaretz carried a commentary from Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman on the two hot issues this fall:
(1) racism and identity in Israel, and (2) recognition of Israel as a Jewish State.

Rabbi Hartman wrote: “While most Jews – but not all – clearly define Israel as a Jewish state, not every Israeli does. To ask a Muslim or Christian who is an Israeli citizen to regard himself as a citizen of a Jewish state is to expect him to declare himself a perennial outsider within his own country. It is perfectly legitimate, and even crucial, that Israeli Jews define Israel as a Jewish state. In the Jewish understanding of the rebirth of the State of Israel, we have returned to the Land of Israel to create a sovereign Jewish state; in our understanding, the Jewish national narrative is of necessity the majority narrative here. But to assume non-Jews – equal citizens of the State of Israel by virtue of the democratic principles at the basis of Israel’s self-understanding – feel the same way as Jews is not only unreasonable, it is nonsensical. To expect that a non-Jew will accept a Jewish national identity is to fail to recognize the complexity of the multicultural reality that is the modern State of Israel. We have made this mistake since 1948; while witnesses to the growth of the Palestinian minority in our midst, we have failed to come up with a category to accommodate their distinct Israeli identity. In relegating them to the status of perennial strangers in a Jewish state, we make it supremely difficult for this people to feel a duty of loyalty to Israel or any sense of equality living in it … There must be a Jewish narrative and a broader Israeli narrative that creates a collective space with bonds of loyalty toward citizens of the State of Israel who are either non-Jews or for whom the state’s Jewishness is not the central feature of their national self-understanding. The impoverished condition of the current political discussion on this issue assumes that anyone who relinquishes an exclusive claim to a Jewish narrative is a post or anti-Zionist. Many Jews fear that by surrendering the exclusivity of the Jewish claim to Israel they facilitate the destruction of the Jewish state. This, I believe, is a mistake. Multicultural states, of which Israel is but one example, require multiple national narratives to enable their different populations to participate. It does not require particular cultures to forfeit their own national self-understanding, but to give up the claim to define others’ collective identity … With respect to the peace negotiations now underway, it is both unnecessary and unreasonable to require the Palestinian people to accept Israel as a Jewish state. It is critical that they recognize Israel as an independent state against which they have no territorial demands or aspirations” …
This commentary was published in Haaretz today here.

Yediot Ahronot: Why demand Palestinian recognition of Israel as Jewish State

Israel’s largest-circulation newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, wrote an editorial today questioning the Israeli Prime Minister’s declared intent to demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, according to a translated summary provided by the Israeli Government Press Office. The summary says that “The editors believe that such a demand – if acceded to – will not undercut the Palestinian demand for a ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and assert that, ‘No self-respecting country begs for recognition of its identity or declares that recognition of it is a red line’. The paper notes that more than a few Israeli Jews disavow Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and suggests dealing with them first”.

Saeb Erekat says Palestinian negotiators should not acknowledge Israel as Jewish state

Although the Palestine National Council has already done so, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has “rejected Israel’s demand that the Palestinians acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state”, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. Both newspapers are reporting that Erekat said in an interview with Radio Palestine that “There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined.” Erekat told Radio Palestine.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s late leader, Yasser Arafat, proclaimed a Palestinian State in 1988 on the basis of UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which stated that the British Mandate of Palestine should be divided into two parts, one Jewish and one Arab.

The JPost says that “A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said in response that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insists that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s Jewish identity, as a condition for Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state … Meanwhile, Olmert told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the peace conference scheduled to take place in Annapolis in late November would last for a single day. The conference, the prime minister said, would serve to launch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and be a one-time event geared towards gaining international support for the talks”.

The JPost report is here

Haaretz is reporting that Olmert said Monday: “We won’t hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state, this is a launching point for all negotiations … We won’t have an argument with anyone in the world over the fact that Israel is a state of the Jewish people. Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me. This has been made clear to the Palestinians and the Americans. I have no doubt that Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] and [PA premier Salam] Fayad are committed to prior agreements and want to make peace with Israel as a Jewish state,” Olmert continued … Olmert told the gathering that immediately at the start of negotiations following the summit, Israel will set a precondition that the Palestinians recognize Israel as ‘a Jewish state’. ‘I do not intend to compromise in any way over the issue of the Jewish state’, Olmert said, thereby accepting the position of Livni and Barak. ‘This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state’. Olmert said he raised the importance of this issue during his talks with European and American officials, and their response had been positive. However, during talks in recent weeks between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, the Palestinians refused to include the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in the shared declaration the teams are preparing, which will be made at Annapolis. Erekat’s statement to Israel Radio on Monday did not seem to imply that refusal would waver ahead of the summit…” The Haaretz account of Erekat’s and Olmert’s remarks on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state are here.

There are already 557 comments on Erekat’s remarks posted on the Haaretz website.

Maariv says basis for peace is recognition of a Jewish state

According to the translated summary offered by the Israeli Government Press Office today, the Ma’ariv newspaper writes in its editorial today that: “In our peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and in the various Oslo accords (as well as in the Roadmap), the definition of the state of Israel as Jewish state, as the state of the Jewish people, does not appear.”

The GPO summary reports that Maariv argues, in its editorial today, that: “The heart of the problem is that the Arab countries and the Palestinians (as well as some Israeli Jews) are not – in any way – prepared to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state, as the State of the Jewish People” … for three reasons: “The first is ideological-psychological – the unwillingness to countenance the existence of a Jewish state within the Arab-Islamic world … The second reason has to do with the Palestinian refugees of 1948 – recognizing the Jewish state basically means conceding the right of these refugees to return to Israel … The third reason is the Israeli Arabs…whose leaders openly declare that they absolutely do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

According to the summary translation, Maariv states in its editorial that “The Annapolis conference must be a test for the Palestinians and the Arab countries: Are they prepared for a simple call for the vision of two states – for the Jewish people and for the Palestinian people or do they oppose this? This is the elementary basis for any structure of peace, for any future discussion.”