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"

Israeli Arabs calling the shots for the PA?

A report just published in Israel’s YNet news confirms what Palestinian and Israeli friends have been saying: some Israeli Arab politicians have told Palestinian negotiators they must not re-state recognition of Israel as a Jewish State.

The Israeli Arabs – some 1.25 million persons of Palestinian origin who did not become refugees but instead found themselves inside the state of Israel when fighting died down in 1948 or so. A number of Israeli Arabs were expelled from their homes and villages, which were subsequently destroyed, but they remained inside Israel.

Israeli Arabs are Israeli citizens who are defined as having Arabic nationality. They make up roughly 20 percent of Israel’s total population, but are underrepresented in the country’s civil service. Israeli Arabs do not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (though Israeli Druse do). Arabic is the second official language of the country, after Hebrew. Israelis of Jewish nationality, by contrast, receive preferential treatment in almost every domaine.

Israeli Arabs have become increasingly outspoken in support of the Palestinian cause, and some 12 Israeli Arabs were shot by Israeli police in the Israeli Arab town of Um al-Fahm in the Galilee while demonstrating peacefully in support of Palestinian demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza at the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada in October 2000. The Official summation of the Or Commission report that was established to look into the events of those days reported that, among other things, “Various circles raised demands to grant autonomy in some areas to the Arab minority, and to abolish the definition of the state as a Jewish state and make it ‘a state for all its citizens’.”

Since then, there have been periodic public remarks by nationalist Israeli politicians about trading some of the Israeli Arab towns, such as Um al-Fahm in the Galilee, to the Palestinian Authoritiy in exchange for keeping Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

These remarks stoke periodic fears among Israeli Arabs (and among Palestinians) of expulsions, population transfers, and ethnic cleansing.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said recently, very controversially, that Israeli Arabs could realize their national aspirations when the Palestinian State is created.

Haaretz reported that Hadash party Chairman Mohammad Barakeh, said at the time in response that “the Palestinian Arabs in Israel live in their homeland. They did not immigrate. It is the state that immigrated.” Haaretz added that Barakeh told the newspaper that “Palestinian and international recognition of Israel as a Jewish state will determine the status of Arabs in Israel as second-class citizens”, and he said that “such recognition might legitimize population swap and transfer of Arab citizens and also invalidate the Palestinian refugees’ right of return”. This Haaretz story is posted here.

Ynet reported today that “The Palestinian Authority must not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Shawki Khatib said Friday during a Hadash party annual convention in Nazareth. Hundreds of the party’s supporters, including PLO and Palestinian Authority representatives, attended the gathering, which marked 30 years since the movement’s establishment. According to Khatib, Israeli Arabs in Israel have been pushed to the margins due to the country’s definition as Jewish state, and are paying a heavy price for this. He urged PA envoys who attended the event not to comply with Israel’s demand for such recognition. The YNet report is posted

The Jerusalem Post reported today that “During his speech at the opening ceremony of the seventh Hadash Party conference in Nazareth, [Sa’eb] Erekat said Israel must decide if it is committed to peace or continued settlement construction, adding that ‘an unjust peace agreement will not last’. Hundreds participated in the ceremony entitled, ‘A new world is possible – 30 years of struggle’, which marked three decades since the party’s foundation. The conference was also attended by representatives of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority including PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s advisor Samih Abed Al-Fatah. In Erekat’s protracted speech … The Palestinian negotiator also spoke about Israel’s demand that it be recognized as a Jewish state. ‘When (Foreign Minister Tzipi) Livni made this demand, I asked her why she was making such a request…there are those who say Israel is trying to torpedo the refugee issue before it is discussed. I said that I was not prepared to submit requests of Zionist movement societies’.” This Jerusalem Post report is published here.

Actually, this is a line that Erekat pinched from Yasser Abed Rabbo…