Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad angrily left a U.N. Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee meeting and canceled a scheduled subsequent press conference with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in New York. This was after Ayalon refused to approve a summary of the meeting which said "two states" but did not include the words "two states for two peoples." Ayalon said afterwards,
What I say is that if the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there's nothing to talk about ... if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.
Days earlier, at the beginning of a Cabinet meeting, PM Netanyahu said,
The foundation of the state of Israel is that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people. ... That is the real basis of the end of demands from the state of Israel and the end of the conflict between the two peoples.
According to TimesLive, "Netanyahu has made recognition of Israel's Jewish character a central demand, suggesting the Palestinians' failure to do so means they have not come to terms with Israel's existence."
Perhaps this will put to rest second thoughts on the wisdom or necessity of demanding Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State.
The truth of the matter is that the Arabs are stuck on rejection. They have been since the signing of the Palestinian Mandate in 1922. It was "in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" and mandated that Britain, the Mandatory Power, "shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes."
In 1921, Britain appointed Mohammad Amin al-Husayni to the post of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. His goal was to thwart the Mandate in order to secure the independence of Palestine as an Arab state. He led violent riots against the Jews. This violence continued throughout the twenties, thirties, and forties.
In 1947, the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 181, known as the Partition Plan, which invited both Jews and Arabs to establish their states in the land designated for them. The Jews accepted the invitation and declared the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The Arabs rejected the invitation and declared war on Israel. Against all odds, the Israelis prevailed and increased the territories under their control. A ceasefire was agreed to at the urging of the Arabs. It was followed by an Armistice Agreement which demarcated the battle lines with a green pen. Israel was prepared to accept the "green line" as the final border, but the Arabs insisted otherwise.
Thus, the Egyptian-Israeli agreement stated that "[t]he Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims and positions of either Party to the Armistice as regards ultimate settlement of the Palestine question." A similar provision was included in the agreement with Jordan.
The Arabs insisted that all refugees who had fled the hostilities to other countries be supported by the U.N. and kept in camps until they could be returned to their homes. Such an unprecedented move was to keep the Arab hope alive of destroying the Jewish state.
In 1967, the Arabs were ready to try again and began massing their armies east of the green line. Israel preempted the coming attack, and the Arabs suffered a colossal defeat. Israel ended up in possession of the Sinai, the Golan, and Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). In the wake of the war, the Security Council of the U.N. passed Res. 242, which authorized Israel to remain in occupation of these territories until she could withdraw to "secure and recognized borders." The resolution didn't require all territories to be vacated, but the Arabs insisted otherwise.
In 1968, the Arab countries meeting in Khartoum passed a resolution declaring "no recognition, no negotiations and no peace." In doing so, they rejected Res. 242. The Arabs were still stuck on rejection.
A breakthrough finally came in 1979, when Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David agreement in which the parties agreed that they would "recognize and will respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence." No mention was made of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. It wasn't an issue then. In 1994 Jordan followed suit after transferring all its rights to Judea and Samaria to the PLO.
In 1993, Israel and the PLO signed a Declaration of Principles known as the Oslo Accords. It essentially set out a framework for negotiations in which all final status issues could be resolved. A precondition to signing these accords was an exchange of letters by Arafat and Rabin. In Arafat's letter, he wrote,
The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.
The PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.
In view of the promise of a new era and the signing of the Declaration of Principles and based on Palestinian acceptance of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid. Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant.
Once again, the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was not in issue. But the PLO and Fatah failed to amend the provisions of their charters, both of which called for the destruction of Israel. The Palestine National Council (PNC) also failed to amend the Palestine Covenant. In effect, all other commitments in the letter were rendered meaningless. Thus, the PNC still rejected Res. 242 and the recognition of Israel. Furthermore, by their actions and continued resort to violence, the PNC and its successor the Palestinian Authority rejected their commitment to a "peaceful resolution" of the conflict. The Arabs were still stuck on rejection.
In 1993, the U.S. reinvigorated the peace process by insisting that both the PA and Israel accept the Roadmap, which was just drafted with the approval of Saudi Arabia. Until then, Resolution 242 provided the only parameters for resolving the issues of borders and refugees. The Roadmap also did not require recognition of the Jews as a people or Israel as a Jewish state.
Notwithstanding Israel's strenuous objections, The Saudi Plan, later amended and renamed the Arab Peace Initiative (API) , was included in the Roadmap, and it provided a totally different parameters for establishing the final borders. It insisted on the green line as the border with minor exchanges of land, thus requiring Israel to vacate all the territories. The U.S. thereby undermined Israel's right to defensible borders. The Roadmap required a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement. Its first requirement was that "Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel." Needless to say, the incitement and violence continue to this day.
The API further required withdrawal from Syrian and Lebanese territories occupied and for a just solution to the "Palestine refugee problem" issue pursuant to GA Res 194. It also required "[t]he acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital."
In effect, the Arabs continued to reject Res. 242.
In return for Israel agreeing to all these things, the Arabs affirmed the following:
I - Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
II - Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
Totally aside from whether the Arab countries can be trusted to do so, there was no affirmation of Israel as a Jewish state. Besides, Israel was not about to accept these "take it or leave it" terms.
So why has Netanyahu now insisted on such recognition? Many argue that Israel doesn't need such recognition and that as a sovereign state, she can define herself. Netanyahu first mentioned this requirement in his Bar Ilan speech. But he wasn't the first to do so. Former PM Olmert made the demand in 2007 when he told the EU that the foundation of negotiations with the P.A. must be its "recognition of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people" -- an issue he said was "not subject to either negotiations or discussion."
This recognition is particularly important because it puts an end to the PA demand for a "right of return" which would, if implemented, put an end to Israel as a Jewish state. Israel is insisting that all refugees go to the new Palestinian state when established and not Israel. Furthermore, one can expect that after an agreement is signed, if it ever happens, that the Arabs will keep up the demonizing of Israel, demanding that she give equal rights to Arab Israelis. Hundreds and thousands of Arabs would infiltrate Israel as illegal aliens and insist on staying there.
The Arab Peace Initiative is also demanding, according to Res 194, that Palestinian refugees be allowed back into Israel should they want to go there. Their offer of peace is based on Israel not being a Jewish state and the return of hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees to Israel. So the Arabs are still stuck on rejection.
Now for over a year and a half, Abbas has been refusing to negotiate directly. The reason is that negotiations require give-and-take and end in a signed agreement. Abbas has no interest in such an agreement. He wants to get more concessions such as a building freeze without giving anything tangible in return. He wants borders imposed on Israel by the U.N. Thus, he would not have to agree to them. He would just declare a state on what's left and continue to reject Israel as a Jewish state. The ultimate objective, as their Charter says, is to reconquer Palestine as defined by the Mandate, thereby putting an end to the Jewish state.
Even if Abbas was willing to compromise, he has no authority to do so, and his agreement would not bind all the Palestinians. Furthermore, he would be signing his own death warrant. Hamas and Iran are still adamant that the Zionist state must disappear from the ME.
You see, the Arabs are still stuck on rejection.
Ted Belman is a retired lawyer and editor of Israpundit. He made aliyah last year and now lives in Jerusalem.