Curiously enough, this question is never raised. Not by the Palestinians, not by the Americans, not even by the Israelis themselves.
Before our government demands that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as the Nation-State etc, should not the Jews in Los Angeles, Moscow and Johannesburg be asked?
Without a world-wide referendum of the Jewish Diaspora and the affirmative answer of a large majority, the Israeli claim is baseless. Indeed, it is a form of imperialism, an effort to impose by force a kind of sovereignty on a subject people.
Before such a referendum can take place, several questions must be answered: Who is a Jew? A son or daughter of a Jewish mother? What about a Jewish father? People converted to the Jewish religion? By whom? Only by an Orthodox rabbi? What about converts accepted by "reform" or "conservative" rabbis? What about atheists, can they become Jews represented by Israel?
About all these questions there is no agreement among the Israelis themselves. So what meaning does the demand for recognition have, except as a ploy to sabotage peace negotiations?
THE QUESTION of a referendum also arose this week in a different context.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is restless again. True, his entire ministry is on strike. The main office and all the Israeli embassies in the world are shut. But Lieberman does not rest.
This week he announced that he had instructed the legal advisor of the ministry to submit a legal opinion about his proposal for territorial exchanges. According to his plan, a large area of sovereign Israeli territory inhabited by Arab citizens would be transferred to the future Palestinian state, together with its population, in return for Palestinian areas inhabited by the settlers.
The undisguised purpose of the swap would be to reduce the number of Arab citizens, making the Jewish state more Jewish.
On the face of it, this may be seen as a fair proposal.
First of all, it means that Lieberman is for the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel. For an extreme rightist, that by itself is remarkable.
All Israeli ultra-nationalists are facing a dilemma: what is more important, geography or demography? The Jewishness of the entire land which was promised to us by God, or the Jewishness of the population of the Jewish state?
The bulk of the rightist movements prefer the land to the people. They want to keep all the country "from the sea to the river," even if it means that the Palestinians will be a majority of the population. For them, an eternal occupation would be a good solution, an apartheid state is also acceptable.
Another wing of the rightist camp believes that it is more important to have a state in which the number of non-Jews would be negligible, guaranteeing that the Jewish state would remain Jewish forever. The Lieberman solution is designed to achieve this.
For this purpose, Lieberman is prepared to change the geography of Israel in such a way that the "narrow waist" would become even narrower. Between Netanya on the sea and Palestinian Tulkarem, the state is now only 14 km wide. Lieberman would narrow this even more. Since the narrowness of the state is often quoted as the reason for annexing the West Bank, this by itself is quite remarkable.
THE LEGAL advisor took his task seriously and produced a long and well-reasoned report. He dealt mainly with the question whether such a solution would be compatible with international law. Nor surprisingly, considering his situation, his answer was yes.