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.