by Joseph Klein
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has flatly refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Such recognition is a key condition that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded for reaching an acceptable peace agreement on a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Netanyahu explained the importance of such Palestinian recognition, which would amount to an expression of the Palestinians’ good faith intention to truly end the conflict by accepting Israel’s right of self-determination to once and for all live in peace as the Jewish state its founders envisioned:
“The central question at the end is of course ‘Are you willing to recognize that the state of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish nation?’. If you don’t have the brunt of the agreement, then why turn to the leftovers. Concentrate on the central and difficult questions that they need to provide an answer for, but they don’t provide an answer. If they do give an answer — its negative. They say that they will not recognize a Jewish state in order to leave the right of return on the table. So then what are we even talking about here? That a Palestinian state will be established but it will continue its conflict against the state of Israel with more preferential borders? We are a lot of things, but we are definitely not fools.”Incredibly, the U.S. State Department backs Abbas’ position. The spokeswoman for the State Department, Jen Psaki, stated in an interview Saturday with the “Al-Quds” newspaper that “[T]here is no need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The American stance is clear in that it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, but there is no need for the Palestinians to recognize it as such in a final agreement.”
Psaki is ignoring the Palestinians’ intent to throw out any Israelis still living in an independent Palestinian state. Abbas, for example, declared that “If we want an independent state, I will not accept any single Israeli in our territories.” He denied that he was against the Jews per se, but such antipathy is precisely what animates the xenophobic, anti-Jewish Palestinian ideology. This ideology starts with the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to falsely re-write the history of the Jewish homeland, denying that Jews have any historic connection to the land at all. Official Palestinian Authority outlets broadcast this lie over and over again. For example, in a documentary appearing last December on an official Palestinian Authority TV station, a woman proclaimed: “I’m not against Jews. They can live. They can live on Mars, Allah willing, but they cannot take over places that are not their places, or land that is not their land and a homeland that is not their homeland.”
On January 7, 2014, the official spokesperson for President Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, accused the Israeli government of “falsifying history.”
Then there is the provocative statement by Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash in a sermon delivered in the presence of Abbas and broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV. Al-Habbash said that any peace agreement reached with Israel is just the first step towards defeating Israel, citing as the “model” Mohammed’s conquest of Mecca just two years after he had signed a treaty that gave his forces time to gain enough strength to carry out the conquest.
Recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state would be contrary to the Palestinians’ goal of returning millions of the descendants of the original refugees to pre-1967 Israel. In other words, while insisting that Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 lines to make way for an independent Palestinian state devoid of any Israeli Jews, the Palestinians still demand the right to undermine the Jewish character of Israel, even as it existed pre-1967, by flooding Israel with so-called “refugees” (actually many descendants several generations removed from the original refugees) rather than giving them real homes in an independent Palestinian state.
Thus, Psaki’s dismissal of the importance that Israel attaches to the Palestinians’ recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as part of any viable peace agreement, enables the Palestinians to continue to pursue their xenophobic, anti-Jewish agenda. However, Psaki is simply reflecting the Obama administration’s willingness to turn a blind eye to Israel’s core concern to maintain its Jewish identity. The Obama administration is willing to bend over backwards to accommodate Palestinian prejudices in pursuit of a vacuous peace. President Obama displayed this callousness during the course of an interview he conducted late last month with Jeffrey Goldberg, a columnist for Bloomberg View. Obama issued a veiled threat of diminished U.S. support for the Jewish state if Israel does not succumb to his demand for more concessions: “If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”
Obama made no mention of the Palestinian demand for the “right of return,” which could allow potentially millions of refugee descendants to descend on a land they did not come from in the first place. Why doesn’t he publicly upbraid Abbas for refusing to concede on this unreasonable destabilizing demand?
Moreover, the Application of the State of Palestine for admission to membership in the United Nations, which the Palestinians submitted to the UN Secretary General on September 23, 2011, states as follows:
“This application for membership is being submitted based on the Palestinian people’s natural, legal and historic rights and based on United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947…”Part II of Resolution 181 contains Section A, entitled “THE ARAB STATE,” and Section B, entitled “THE JEWISH STATE.” Why can’t Abbas at least be willing to repeat these headings in an acknowledgment of the rights accorded both sides in the two-state solution embodied in Resolution 181, the resolution he now relies on as a basis for an independent Palestinian state?
Finally, President Abbas himself said he realized that it was a mistake for the Arab states to have rejected the General Assembly Resolution 181 partition plan. In an interview in 2011 with the Israeli Channel Two, President Abbas said: “At that time, 1947, there was Resolution 181, the partition plan, Palestine and Israel. Israel existed. Palestine diminished. Why? […] I know, I know. It was our mistake. It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole.”
What the Obama administration should be telling President Abbas in no uncertain terms is to correct the Palestinians’ historic mistake once and for all by explicitly embracing the principle of a Jewish state and an Arab state living side by side, as outlined in Resolution 181. It is time to call Abbas’ bluff rather than having the State Department run interference for him.
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