Douglas M. Bloomfield (a former AIPAC lobbyist who now runs his own lobbying firm in Washington, DC) wrote this op-ed, “Why won’t Abbas accept a ‘Jewish state’?” for the New Jersey Jewish News, March 19. Bloomfield discusses why Netanyahu and Abbas are disagreeing on this matter, but concludes with this evidence that Arafat recognized Israel as the Jewish state in 1988, and again in 2004:
. . . Yasser Arafat, Abbas’s mentor and predecessor and the father of the Palestinian national movement, unequivocally recognized Israel as the Jewish state more than 25 years ago. Tablet magazine posted a newly rediscovered video of Arafat saying, in English, “The Palestine National Council…said clearly there are two states in Palestine, a Palestinian state and a Jewish state.” And he repeated it in a 2004 interview with Ha’aretz when asked whether Israel should continue to be a Jewish state. “Definitely,” he responded. “Definitely.” That gives Abbas the cover he needs — he can always hide behind Arafat — if he wants it. In the words of Shavit, “What Arafat permitted, Abbas cannot forbid.” But he may have climbed so far out on that limb of refusal he can’t see a way down. Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, suggests, “Perhaps Abbas’ refusal is tactical — an attempt to extract concessions from Israel in exchange for saying the same words Arafat uttered years ago.” Thus Netanyahu and Abbas each has a way out of the impasse: Yasser Arafat. Netanyahu can claim Arafat set the precedent and he only asks Abbas to reaffirm it, and Abbas can put all the responsibility on his predecessor and say he is not doing anything new. The off ramp is there, if anyone wants to use it.
He might have used those words but they are meaningless if at the same time he affirmed and Abbas still affirms the ‘right of return’which would automatically undermine ‘Israel as a Jewish state’.
Obviously, a full right of return to what is now Israel is a non-starter. But if Abbas is trading that for a rt. of return to the new Palestinian state, with compensation for others (to be paid out of an international fund which may also provide for Jews expelled from Arab lands as well), there’s room for a deal. Abbas has hinted at the latter more than once.
In all honesty, do you believe that the carved up, impoverished bantustans of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip can successfully absorb a million Palestinian refugees, and secondly that scenario is one that will yield peace and stability?
Also, why are you linking Jews who left or fled homes in Arab countries to Palestinian refugees? For one, Palestinians have nothing to do with that issue, and secondly the situations were quite different. Attempting to conflate them is an act of deception.
Given the right investments, there is no reason to assume that the West Bank cannot absorb many more people now classified as Palestinian refugees. (Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour claims that there is over $7 billion of private Palestinian money sitting in banks waiting for the right conditions to invest.) If you discount the 60% of the Palestine Mandate that is desert, the West Bank is about equal in area to Israel’s coastal plain, the Galilee and Jerusalem where over 6 million Israelis live today. Yet the West Bank’s Palestinian population is only about half that. So you do the math.
While it’s true that Jewish refugees from Arab lands were not forced out by the Palestinians, most were expelled by Arab mobs and governments reacting to Israel’s victories in ’48, ’56 and ’67. If an international fund provides monetary compensation for Palestinian resettlement and restitution, it would only help engender political support within Israel for an overall agreement if this same int’l. fund also provides something for the Jews who became refugees as a result of the same conflict. Still, Ted should understand that we are NOT insisting upon such a linkage, but this is a possibility. We should only get to the point where this becomes a final detail to figure out.