As President Obama continues his drive to push the Middle East Peace Process toward some movement, he is falling into a trap. That trap is aiming toward the wrong goal. If peace is ever to be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians, much less with the wider Arab and Muslim world, then one thing and one thing only must be achieved: recognition of Israel's right to exist as a state in the midst of her Muslim neighbors. Without that, any agreement that Israel is ever coerced to sign will be simply illusory. Failing to achieve recognition by the Muslim world that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state means that we will not have a real peace or lasting peace.
Time and time again, we hear of the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel's central character. We hear President Obama in his June 2009 Cairo speech implicitly suggest that Israel's creation came in reaction to the Holocaust and not out of history. Opponents of the suggestion say that only when negotiations reach the final status point can such a condition even be considered. These are all contrivances designed to avoid the central sticking point of the dispute from the return of Jews to the Holy Land in the 1880s. Muslim states do not recognize a non-Muslim state in their midst. They view Israel's presence as a Jewish entity as a violation of their religious worldview.
According to Shaikh Hasan Al Kafrawi, The Shafiite (Professor of canon law in Cairo, d. 1788 CE),
They are forbidden to build new churches, chapels, or monasteries in any Muslim land. We should destroy everything that is of new construction in every place, such as Cairo, for instance, founded under the Muslim religion, for it is said in a tradition of Umar: "No church shall be built in Islam." They shall no longer be permitted to repair the parts of these [post-Islamic] buildings which are in ruins. However, the old buildings [of pre-Islamic times] which are found in a land whose population had embraced Islam need not be destroyed. They shall not, however, be enlarged by means of repairs or otherwise. In case the tolerated peoples [Jews, Christians, etc.] act contrary to these provisions we will be obliged to destroy everything that has been added to the original size of the building. [Only pre-Islamic churches and synagogues may be repaired; new ones must be torn down.]
Entrance into Muslim territory by infidels of foreign lands under the pact guaranteeing protection to the tolerated peoples is permitted only for the time necessary to settle their business affairs. If they exceed this period, their safe-conduct having expired, they will be put to death or be subject to the payment of the head-tax. [Jews and Christians of foreign lands must pay a special head-tax if they wish to remain permanently in Muslim lands.] As to those with whom the ruler may have signed treaties, and with whom he, for whatever motive, may have granted a temporary truce, they form only the smallest fraction. But they, too, must not pass the fixed limit of more than four months [without paying the tax], particularly if this occurs at a time when Islam is prosperous and flourishing. The Most-High has said [Qu'ran 2: 2341] "They should wait four months," and he has again said [47:37]: "Do not show any cowardice, and do not at all invite the unbelievers to a peace when you have the upper-hand and may God be with you."
Sheikh Al Kafrawi explains it quite simply. Tolerance of non-Muslims on Muslim lands is forbidden. If we think that this kind of thinking has been forgotten, we are mistaken. For Muslims, the land, once Muslim, will always be Muslim. Israel's presence on land seen to be Muslim is considered a violation.
Jews around the world are held as agents of Israel and, in a tribal manner, are seen as an extension of Israel's work to deny Muslims control of what they view as Muslim land. Anti-Semitism has spread to a genocidal form in this new century for one and only one reason: Muslim anti-Israelism. A few drunken teenagers in Kiev or Warsaw scribbling swastikas on gravestones does not equal the threat that that kind of anti-Semitism poses today. Muslim anti-Semitism -- sponsored by and indoctrinated into Muslim youth across Europe and the Middle East by Imams, vicious satellite television broadcasts from the region, and sermons calling for killing Jews -- results from a Muslim feeling of exclusivity and predominance. They want Israel, and any Jew who prevents them from achieving that, especially those in Israel, is therefore guilty. Supporters of Israel be damned, they feel, for such people are only part of the problem.
The Obama administration wrongly sees Israel as the culprit in blocking a final agreement with the Palestinians. What blocks a final agreement with the Palestinians is the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world. The Palestinians only prolong their own agony, and they are certainly not helping their cause through their continued anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement.The Muslim world stands complicit in this incitement as well.
The Obama administration is simply blind to this. They fail to see that the Arab world will not back down, so they figure it might help to force Israel to do so. This is wrong. The only way to avoid this is to center on this point: Israel must be recognized by the Muslim world to be allowed to exist.
If the administration continues on its current path, however, they may well get some sort of peace -- perhaps a peace not unlike what Neville Chamberlain achieved when he said he had found "peace in our time." Well, we all know how that one turned out. Does Mr. Obama wish to follow in Chamberlain's footsteps?
Gregg J. Rickman was the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. He is a Senior Fellow at the Institute on Religion and Policy, Visiting Fellow at The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, and Research Scholar at the Initiative on Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.