Council for the National Interest

Otherwise Occupied / The slippery slope of recognizing Israel as the Jewish state

Jan 20 2014 / 8:45 pm

John Whitbeck’s commentary:

In the article transmitted below, HAARETZ columnist Amira Hass considers, with considerable help from Nabeel Shaath, Bibi Netanyahu’s diversionary tactic of demanding that Palestine must formally recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”, a demand unfortunately “swallowed” by John Kerry, who, in accordance with a decades-old tradition, appears to be adopting Israel’s goals, tactics and “red lines” as America’s own.

This should surprise no one. Secretaries of State have many other matters to worry about and, inevitably, must rely heavily on the advice of the highly “experienced” professional peace-processors assigned to effectively manage any Israeli-Palestinian “negotiations”, who, seemingly inevitably, move seamlessly back and forth between critical positions in the U.S. government and equally influential positions at prominent arms of the Israel-First Lobby (AIPAC, WINEP and the Saban Center at Brookings) and for whom failure (in terms of America’s publicly proclaimed objectives) has always constituted success (in terms of Israel’s and their own personal objectives).

It seems fair to assume that the current American special Middle East envoy, Martin Indyk (a London-born, Australian-raised veteran of AIPAC, WINEP and Brookings whose devotion to Israel has earned him not only an ultra-rapid special bill granting him American citizenship but positions as Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Senior Director of Near East Affairs at the National Security Council and, on two occasions, U.S. Ambassador to Israel), has not exerted great efforts to convince Kerry NOT to “swallow” Bibi’s two carefully crafted poison pills – “recognition of the Jewish character of the state and recognizing the security needs of Israel in the Jordan valley”.

Otherwise Occupied / The slippery slope of recognizing Israel as the Jewish state

By Amira Hass.

Haaretz – Benjamin Netanyahu sold John Kerry a bill of goods and the American swallowed it. Granted, this wasn’t the wording selected by Nabil Shaath, Fatah’s commissioner for external relations, who explained why he thinks the U.S. secretary of state believed he had no choice but to swallow.

Kerry, said Shaath (amid much praise for the secretary’s integrity and intelligence), as a representative of the world’s biggest superpower, isn’t just thinking about justice and viability. “He is thinking about feasibility – about what he can do with the tools he has to get the Israelis to move towards peace,” said Shaath.

Speaking with members of the foreign press last Thursday, Shaath said, “Mr. Netanyahu can really go with pride to his people and say – you see? I tricked those damn Palestinians and now instead of talking about refugees, and a capital in East Jerusalem, and full withdrawal to the borders of 1967, and rights in water and their security requirements as well as ours, I now convinced the world that the agenda is composed of two items and two items only: recognition of the Jewish character of the state and recognizing the security needs of Israel in the Jordan valley.”

According to Shaath, “These are the two issues that are occupying most of the time of Mr. Kerry and the press and international community.”

Shaath, a former negotiator with the Israelis, said the demand for recognition of Israel’s Jewish character was not included in past talks, official and otherwise, or in any of the signed documents and agreements between the two sides. This demand was also never raised with the Jordanians or Egyptians when those peace accords were forged, he stressed.

“The only solid statement about the agenda of the permanent-status negotiations is in the Oslo Declaration of Principles, which spells out exactly the agenda to be discussed, and this includes Jerusalem, borders, settlements, water, security and refugees,” said Shaath.

Also, during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, he never brought up this demand in his meetings with Shaath. It was first brought up in 2010, in Washington.

At the start of the Oslo negotiations, Shaath notes, the Palestinians were asked to and agreed to unilaterally recognize the State of Israel, while Israel only recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Hence, Israel did not recognize the Palestinian people or its right to a state. But even then, Shaath notes, the Palestinians were not asked to recognize Israel’s Jewish character. So where did this demand suddenly come from?

Palestinian opponents of Oslo say the unilateral recognition was the slippery slope that Yasser Arafat and his supporters embarked on. The problem for Shaath and his colleagues is that everything that their opponents argued 20 years ago – that Israel only intended to squeeze more and more concessions from the Palestinians – is being proved correct. At least that’s how the exhausted Palestinian public perceives it.

“No country in Europe today has a totality of exclusive race or exclusive ethnic origin or religion or past,” said Shaath. “It would be very embarrassing for a Jewish American today to see us recognize the United States as a WASP state, or a white state, or an Anglo-Saxon, Christian state.”

Shaath said he acknowledges the Jewish people’s history of persecution and the ethnic cleansings that have been perpetrated against it. He is well aware, he said, of the horror of the Holocaust.

This is one reason, he implied, that he and Palestinians of his generation have gradually come to accept Israel’s existence. The solution of one state for two peoples, which he supported in the past – and of which he still dreams – is not realistic now, he says. And contrary to what people think – and here the old optimistic Shaath momentarily reappeared – Jews could live in the state of Palestine: First to visit, then to live there as residents, and later to buy land. Why not? But not as occupiers and settlers.

He says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated several times he would not oppose the presence of an international force on the Palestinian border composed exclusively of Jewish-American soldiers, Jewish-French soldiers and so on. But he is opposed to the presence of Israeli army units, even if they would comprise only Druze and Arabs. In other words, the problem is not with the Jews but with the occupier, he emphasized.

The slippery slope is important in understanding the reasons Shaath gave for the Palestinians’ refusal to sign a statement of recognition that would give legal and constitutional validity to Israel’s Jewish exclusivity.

At the least, such a demand implies the marginalization as a second-class citizen of anyone who is not a Jew. It could pave the way for legally sanctioned discrimination against any citizen who is not a Jew, and it essentially asks the PLO to abandon the Palestinian citizens of Israel to an unknown fate of abuse and discrimination. Recognizing Israel’s Jewishness would require the Palestinians to erase their narrative – their history and that of the country as experienced by them.

As has been explained in the media, the demand for the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness entails the demand that the Palestinians cede the right of return.

But at the January 2001 Taba talks, said Shaath, the Israeli side recognized the right of return as part of the principles of a future accord (based on UN Resolution 194). Given past experience and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s current demands, it amounts to the weaker side being called on to agree from the outset to be subject to further expulsions.

“Do you think that any Palestinian leader in his right mind can ever accept this? Shaath asked rhetorically. “Or is this simply intended to make it impossible to sign a peace agreement with Israel?”.

Posted by on Jan 20 2014 . Filed under Commentary & Analysis, Israeli/Jewish Press, John Whitbeck . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . Both comments and pings are currently closed.

National Summit Videos

Watch videos from the Nation Summit!

Click image to watch videos from the National Summit to reassess the U.S.-Israel "Special Relationship".

Support CNI

The posting of articles from organizations or individuals does not necessarily denote agreement with or endorsement of political positions or philosophies espoused by these highly diverse sources. For CNI's position please see our mission statement.
Disclaimer RSS Feed Contact Us
© Copyright 2024 Council for the National Interest.
Powered By Chromovision