About a week ago I posted some thoughts on this blogcriticizing the Israeli government demand that Arabs recognize Israel as a Jewish state. I received more comments on it than anything else I’ve posted, some of which appear under the blogpost and others that were sent to me directly. They were fairly evenly divided between praise and criticism, but all the criticism came from friends who share my belief in a fair two state solution, including my friends Rob Eisen, Ralph Seliger, and Daveed Eden.
All three point out, with different emphases, that Israel’s connection to the Land of Israel is absolutely integral to its raison d’etre, and that it should be combined with a statement that recognizes the historical connection of both peoples to the land, and references the UN partition Resolution of 1947 as well. And there is no question that many Israelis of good will, but who trust Palestinians as little as Palestinians trust them, would be somewhat reassured by such a declaration.
the ICG suggests that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO recognize Judaism’s historical connection to Palestine/the Land of Israel as the land of the three Abrahamic religions (as was done in the Palestinian proclamation of independence in 1988). In addition, the report recommends that the Palestinian leadership abstain from denying Jewish history, including the existence of the Temple Mount, and even be scrupulous in condemning such denial among its people.
Eldar, who, like me, tends to think of the demand as principally a (potentially insuperable) obstacle thrown up by opponents of a two-state solution, seems intrigued by the idea but unsure if it should be taken seriously, which I tend to agree with as well.
I would personally be happy, as well as surprised, if a formula could be found that would recognize the historical and national connection of both peoples to the same land, AND that would be acceptable to both Israel and the P.A. If U.S. pressure, mediation, or encouragement would help that to happen, that is fine. But as an analyst, I simply can’t see it happening. I see it as a deal-breaker. And I suspect that a formulation that referred to the 1947 Partition Resolution would be unacceptable to Netanyahu, let alone his partners in the current Israeli government, much of which does not even accept the principle of two states. But see a recent J-Street statement that expresses hope that such a formulation can be found.
I am particularly intrigued by the idea of Jewish religious (i.e., settler) objections to two states being overcome by Palestinian recognition of the Jewish connection, but I have yet to see a political expression of that position. And I note that none of those who criticized my views took on my argument that if Palestinians would break a pledge for peace, why would they hesitate to break a recognition of Israel as a Jewish state?
I have long felt that what I’ve called the “intangible issues” very much trump the tangible ones on both sides. In other words, borders, security stipulations, and settlements are ultimately less important to both peoples than recognition of a Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem by Palestinians, and acknowledgement of a Jewish role in Palestinian suffering in the Nakba (and, of course there was a Nakba, which for Jews was a War of Independence). The demand for “recognition” is similar but it is often formulated in a way that Palestinians can hardly but understand it as contradicting, and thus negating, their own fundamental narrative that ties them to the land. A Palestinian view of this, which I think represents the Palestinian mainstream, is here.
So I have a challenge for those Israelis or other Jews who genuinely want assurances that both sides recognize each other’s historical, legal, and other claims to the land. Start a dialogue with Palestinians and try to find a formulation that you can agree on. And the challenge is equally extended to Palestinians who are interested in such a dialogue with Jews or Israelis with those beliefs. Prove my skepticism wrong. You can find some suggestions in the ICG report referenced above. I’ll be happy to put people in contact with each other.
But barring such a demonstration of goodwill on both sides, I don’t see it happening, for reasons I expressed in my previous posting. It cuts too close to the ideologies of both sides, which are among both peoples’ most treasured legends. And family legends generally don’t fare well when exposed outside the family for validation.