Michael Oren, the historian who is the current Israeli ambassador to the USA, has written an op-ed in the NY Times about the Israeli demand to be recognized as a Jewish state by the Palestinians.

He writes:

Affirmation of Israel’s Jewishness, however, is the very foundation of peace, its DNA. Just as Israel recognizes the existence of a Palestinian people with an inalienable right to self-determination in its homeland, so, too, must the Palestinians accede to the Jewish people’s 3,000-year connection to our homeland and our right to sovereignty there. This mutual acceptance is essential if both peoples are to live side by side in two states in genuine and lasting peace.

So why won’t the Palestinians reciprocate? After all, the Jewish right to statehood is a tenet of international law. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 called for the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people” in the land then known as Palestine and, in 1922, the League of Nations cited the “historical connection of the Jewish people” to that country as “the grounds for reconstituting their national home.” In 1947, the United Nations authorized the establishment of “an independent Jewish state,” and recently, while addressing the General Assembly, President Obama proclaimed Israel as “the historic homeland of the Jewish people.” Why, then, can’t the Palestinians simply say “Israel is the Jewish state”?

He doesn’t quite answer his own question, but he does conclude by stating that:

The core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the refusal to recognize Jews as a people, indigenous to the region and endowed with the right to self-government. Criticism of Israeli policies often serves to obscure this fact, and peace continues to elude us. By urging the Palestinians to recognize us as their permanent and legitimate neighbors, Prime Minister Netanyahu is pointing the way out of the current impasse: he is identifying the only path to co-existence.

About the author



  • And? The world is full of aggregation but not enough analysis. amiright? So do you at least agree Middle?

  • Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic comment on this makes sense:

    “The larger, and looming question, is whether the Palestinian Authority should be required, as a condition for Israeli acquiescence to a peace deal, to publicly acknowledge that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. I’m agnostic on this question; on the one hand, it seems to be an unnecessary and provocative demand; on the other hand, the Palestinians, and their supporters across the Muslim world, have refused all along to acknowledge the obvious Jewish ties to the Land of Israel. It would be emotionally satisfying to hear the Palestinians acknowledge that Jews belong in the land between the river and the sea; most Israelis (not necessarily those Israelis who support the idea of a loyalty oath, however) already acknowledge that the Palestinian Arabs are a people native to the land. But on the other other hand, the success of a peace treaty will not hinge on the question of whether Palestinians acknowledge on paper Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state; it will hinge, presumably, on more practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees.”

    In other words: what difference does it make?

    • Goldberg is, as he says, agnostic on the question. He wants a peace deal, regardless of how it’s constructed. I think the issue the Netanyahu government is raising is that regardless of how it’s constructed, the manner in which it is construed is no less important. It’s a point of view that is arguable but their argument is a persuasive one.

      There have been many occasions when I’ve written here that the goal of trying to put 194 into any peace deal is as a back-door way of getting Israel and the international community to sign off on a right of return which currently does not exist. The point is to have Jordan, an Arab Moslem state, next to Palestine, an Arab, predominantly Moslem state, next to Israel which would then become an Arab majority state. In other words, all this talk about a peace deal is merely a way of opening the door to the end of the state of Israel, the state embodying the Jewish nation’s self-determination.

      Obviously, if the Palestinians acknowledge the status of Israel as the state of the Jewish nation, then at least in word but also to some degree in commitment, they are acknowledging that the nature of the state of Israel which will sit next door to their Palestine will be the embodiment of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. In theory, then, it will be harder for them to seek to undermine that status.

      Is this as practical as signing a deal where 194 has no presence? Nope. I’d rather have a deal without 194 anywhere in it than have them proclaim this. However, the fact they refuse to acknowledge what Israel is should send serious red flags to all the diplomats and politicians involved in trying to bring peace to the region.

      So, to answer your question Alex, I wouldn’t let this issue break a deal, but I suspect there is no deal to be had until the Palestinians agree to this issue.

  • Bibi’s putting this issue out there to undermine the current round of talks. He doesn’t want a deal, among other things, presided over by Obama. Whatever the merits of his strategy, Netanyahu is taking an unnecessary risk of having Israel blamed for the collapse of the talks (assuming they haven’t collapsed already). It’s up to the Palestinians to tell Israel what it is? Way to gratuitously equip them with some good excuses.

    • No, Bibi is not putting this out there to undermine the talks. He’s putting this out there to neutralize the Palestinian demand to only continue with talks if Israel extends the settlement freeze which the Palestinians ignored for 9 out of 10 months. The blame is/was already being placed on Israel and this is an attempt to throw the ball back in the Palestinians’ court and to reveal their dishonesty.