Many of you may disagree with me, but understand that I speak only for myself. In order to facilitate peace talks and remove Israeli/Jewish suspicions about Palestinian/Arab intentions, I would see it as a positive step for Pres. Abbas to accede to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. I know that the Palestinians do not deny that Israel can call itself anything it wants–including a Jewish state–but it would help if they acknowledge a historic truth: that the United Nations recognized a Jewish state in Palestine back in November 1947.
Like the UN back then, I see Israel as properly a Jewish state in the sense that it has a Jewish ethnic majority, not in the theological way that Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some other countries are “Islamic.” At the same time, it would be reasonable for Netanyahu to affirm that Israel as a Jewish state must live up to the promises enshrined in its Declaration of Independence: that “… [Israel] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture….”
The NY Jewish Week recently published this op-ed, “Israel Has Always Been a Jewish State,” by Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a former president of the Labor Zionist Alliance (now Ameinu) who achieved notoriety by sticking his neck out, over 20 years ago, when he was part of a delegation of Jews who met with Arafat, several years prior to the Oslo peace process. In later years, he was bitterly disillusioned by Arafat and now he cites his successor, Abbas, for making some very harsh statements:
… Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is proving to be as obstructionist and hypocritical as his late predecessor, Yasir Arafat. “Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state,” Abbas declared last week. “We won’t accept it.”
Never mind that he envisions an Arab Palestine that is Judenrein …. “I’m willing to agree to a third party that would supervise [an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement], such as NATO forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the NATO forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land,” Abbas said in Cairo on July 28, 2010.
Never mind that Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Mauritanian in West Africa for that matter, are all officially “Islamic Republics,” that Egypt and Syria call themselves “Arab Republics,” that Jordan by its own definition is a “Hashemite,” meaning directly descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, kingdom, and that the website of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia proclaims that country to be “a modern nation that adheres to Islam, honors its Arab heritage and tradition, and presses vigorously forward in the service of Islam ….”
And yet Abbas still claims to be intent on a negotiated two-state solution, as reported in a NY Times article, summarized as follows by J Street press officer Helen Knight:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that despite his plan to bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations later this month, he wants to continue talks with the Israeli government, saying ‘There is no other way to solve this. No matter what happens at the United Nations, we have to return to negotiations.’ He also said he has met abroad and in secret three times recently with Israeli President Shimon Peres and once with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
I wouldn’t hold my breath, or even bother waiting; a mountain might erode before Israel is recognized. The Arab League and many of its members have shown repeated contempt towards non-Arabs residing in their counties, such as Jews and in a more depressing case, the Kurds. The best thing that Israel can hope for is grudging tolerance from the governments and people, with quite a few of them hoping that it disappears.