The talks haven’t begun yet – they won’t for another 10 days – but Mahmoud Abbas, the venerable Abu Mazen who wrote a dissertation minimizing or denying aspects of the Holocaust, has now publicly stated that as far as he’s concerned Israel is not the Jewish state but merely a state with Jews in it.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state.

“From a historical perspective, there are two states: Israel and Palestine. In Israel, there are Jews and others living there. This we are willing to recognize, nothing else,” Abbas told reporters in Saudi Arabia.

This, of course, is precisely what the Arabs claimed 60 years ago when the UN was busy preparing for its Partition Plan vote. Back then, while UNSCOP was conducting research for its report and recommendations to the General Assembly, the Arab Higher Committee refused to participate in the research precisely because it rejected the possibility of the existence of a Jewish state.

Tough luck y’all. Israel is a Jewish state.

If some people would like to achieve statehood by claiming the right to self-determination while denying it to another group, then they shouldn’t be too surprised when their attempts to negotiate for their new state fail. As of this writing and before the talks have begun in earnest, the Palestinians have staked out the following starting positions with respect to a compromise with Israel:

* Israel is not the Jewish state. (As far as I can tell, they also don’t see it as the state of the Jews.)
* Israel must accept the return of Palestinian refugees according to the insane UNWRA standards that include all generations of Palestinians, even those born outside of what is now Israel, as refugees. By UNHCR standards, which apply to every group of refugees in the world except for Palestinians, only the first generation of refugees would be considered refugees.
* Israel must withdraw in full to 1949 Armistice lines (so-called 1967 Green Line).
* All of the land that was not in Israeli hands in 1949 will become part of the new Palestinian country.
* Specifically, this is to include all of east Jerusalem and particularly the Old City with its Temple Mount.
* No Israelis are to remain in Palestinian territory. Any who live in lines outside of 1949 lines are “settlers” and must be removed.

That’s just the start. Beyond this, we can anticipate to see some of the demands made by the Palestinians in 2000, including a demand for significant reparations, a statement by Israel claiming responsibility for the harm to Palestinians caused in 1948, abdication of any claim to the Temple Moun and removal of all “settlers” from any lands that will become part of the new Palestinian state.

The catch for Israel is that with every set of negotiations, its minimal obligations are moved farther and farther in the direction of the Palestinian objectives. When Arafat went to meet Rabin in the mid-’90s, Rabin saw the future as having an autonomous Palestinian entity and not a state. By Camp David II in 2000, Barak offered the Palestinians a state over most of the West Bank and all of Gaza with a connecting area. By Taba, 6 months later, Barak’s offer changed to the benefit of the Palestinians again – despite the war they had already launched – to include 100% of Gaza, 97% of the West Bank and an agreement to exchange Israeli land for the additional 3%. Barak also offered compensation from Israel and the international community in the amount of $30 billion as well as other goodies like removal of Israeli forces from the Jordan Valley. By time the Road Map came around in 2003, the Israelis learned that it included provisions for accepting UNGAR 194 as part of the agreement, meaning any refugees who sought to return could do so, and that Israel was essentially required to negotiate on the basis of a return to 1949 lines including leaving east Jerusalem because the Saudi Plan of 2002 was incorporated into the defining parameters of this plan.

That’s where we stand today. The inclusion of the Saudis at Annapolis did not happen in a vacuum, the Americans probably made commitments to support the Saudi-led initiative which influenced the Road Map. Abbas says in the article quoted above:

“All I can say is that we felt seriousness from President (George W.) Bush and Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice and the whole American administration toward resolving the Palestinian problem,” he said. “But we can’t claim that we have any guarantees on the negotiations and their outcome.”

“We’re depending on the righteousness of our cause and on the international community, including the United States, which is sympathetic toward the Palestinian issue.”

Of course, in all of these discussions, there has never been any mention of the 800,000 Jews who had to leave Arab and Muslim countries as refugees and who have never been treated as such by the Palestinians or the UN or the international community. Many of the settled in Israel and when I was in Sderot, I met some of those who were refugees as well as their children and grandchildren. They regularly have Palestinian rockets lobbed at them with the intent of killing them and when not killing them, to play mind-games with them and their children.

I don’t bring up these Jewish refugees lightly. As the Bush Administration recognizes that achieving an all-encompassing peace in the Middle East means inclusion of prominent Arab and Muslim countries, it is acknowledging that this is indeed the Arab-Israeli conflict and not just a Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These 800,000 Jewish refugees came from Arab and Muslim lands, lost most and often all of their possessions and had to begin new lives. Most of them were absorbed by Israel and Western countries like Canada and as a result had begun their lives anew. This is why we don’t view them or their children as “refugees” while the Palestinians who have been treated shabbily by their Arab hosts are still perceived as refugees.

I hope that in his eagerness to make history and to appease the Bush Administration, Olmert doesn’t give up too much. He has said publicly that Israel is a Jewish state and that the Temple Mount won’t be given up. I hope these are really his red lines. I hope he doesn’t forget Jewish refugees from Arab lands. I hope he realizes that Israel is going to have just its lonely, small voice in these negotiations while the other side will have a number of voices – Palestinian, Egyptian, Saudi, Syrian, Lebanese, European – and the potential tacit support of the Bush Administration who did not convince all of these Arab and Muslim states to convene without some sort of assurances behind closed doors. I hope Olmert remembers that after Barak’s offer, the Palestinians launched a war against Israel and Israeli civilians, and after leaving Gaza, Israel and Israeli civilians have been attacked from there regularly. NOBODY deserves to receive additional compensation for launching wars.

I hope we really get a “peace of the brave” and not a peace of the stupid.

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