Source: Gush Shalom
On the face of it, it seems like a clever trick by Binyamin Netanyahu to divert attention from the real issues. If so, the Palestinian leadership has fallen into a trap.
Instead of talking about the independence of the putative State of Palestine and its borders, its capital in Jerusalem, the removal of the settlements, the fate of the refugees and the solution of the many other problems, they quarrel endlessly about the definition of Israel.
One is tempted to call out to the Palestinians: what the hell, accord them this damn recognition and be done with it! Who cares!?
THE ANSWER of the Palestinian negotiators is twofold.
First, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State would be an act of betrayal towards the million and a half Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, If Israel is a Jewish State, where does that leave them?
Well, that problem could be solved by a provision in the peace treaty stating that irrespective of anything else in the agreement, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will enjoy full equality in every respect.
Second, that the recognition of Israel's Jewishness would block the return of the refugees.
That argument is even less valid than the first. The solution of the refugee problem will be a central plank of the treaty. The Palestinian leadership, at the time of Yasser Arafat, already tacitly accepted that the solution will be an "agreed" one, so that any return will be at most symbolic. The recognition issue will not affect it.
The debate on this Israeli demand is entirely ideological. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian people accept the Zionist narrative. The Palestinian refusal is based on the Arab narrative, which contradicts the Zionist one on practically every single event that happened during the last 130 years, if not the last 5,000.
Mahmoud Abbas could just come forward and announce: OK, if you accept our practical demands, we shall recognize Israel as whatever you want -- a Buddhist State, a Vegetarian State, you name it.
On September 10, 1993 -- which happened to be my 70th birthday -- Yasser Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, recognized the State of Israel, in return for the no less momentous recognition of the Palestinian people by Israel. Implicitly, each side recognized the other as it is. Israel defined itself in its founding document as a Jewish State. Ergo, the Palestinians have already recognized a Jewish State.
By the way, the first step towards Oslo was made by Arafat when he told his representative in London, Said Hamami, to publish in the "Times" of London on December 17, 1973, a proposal for a peaceful solution, which stated among other things that "the first step must be the mutual recognition of these two sides. The Jewish-Israelis and the Palestinian-Arabs must recognize each other as peoples with all the rights of peoples."
I saw the original draft of this statement with corrections in Arafat's hand.
THE PROBLEM of the Palestinian minority in Israel -- about 20% of Israel's eight million citizens -- is very serious, but it has now acquired a humorous twist.
Since his acquittal from corruption charges and return to the Foreign Office, Avigdor Lieberman is at it again. He has come out supporting John Kerry's peace efforts, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu, who does not.