Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan thinks the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is nonsense. But it is not nonsense - it is the most natural and justified demand imaginable. For four different reasons we must support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who are placing the demand at the top of the diplomatic agenda.
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The first reason: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not start in 1967 and does not revolve around the occupation and the settlements. It is a deep national-religious-cultural-social conflict, whose foundation is blindness. For decades Zionism refused to see the Palestinian people and in doing so refused to recognize its right to establish a Palestinian state. To this day the Palestinian national movement refuses to see the Jewish people and recognize in this way its right to a Jewish state. This double and continuing blindness is what ignited the 100-year war between us and them. That is why, in order to end this war, we must recognize their nationalism and their state, and they must recognize our nationalism and our state. Just as peace is impossible without a Palestinian state, peace is impossible without a Jewish state.
The second reason: The great achievement of the Oslo Accords was in their bringing the Israelis to recognize the fact that there is a Palestinian people in the land of Israel with legitimate rights. The great achievement of the Camp David peace summit was in Israel recognizing the need to establish a Palestinian state. The cumulative result of Oslo and Camp David was a revolution in Israel. The people living in Zion finally saw that there is another people in this land and admitted that it is entitled to a different state, which will express its right to self determination. Thus, there is no reason that the people residing in Palestine cannot open its eyes finally and see that there is another people in the land, and that it is entitled to a different country that will express its right to self determination. Reciprocity is not a sin. Symmetry is not a war crime. Those who believe the Israelis and Palestinians are equal have a moral obligation to demand from the Palestinians exactly what they demand from the Israelis.
The third reason: The Palestinians will not give up on the demand for the right of return. The trauma of the Nakba is their foundational trauma, and the experience of the refugees is the experience that molded them, and there is no Palestinian leader who will declare that the Palestinians will never return to the cities and villages they lost in 1948. If there is any solution at all to the refugee problem, it will be a superficial and insignificant one. But because it is actually impossible to demand from the Palestinians that they change their spots and convert their identity, it is required to demand they recognize this: that the Jewish people is a people of this land, and it did not arrive here from Mars. It is necessary to demand of them to admit that the Jewish people has a history of its own and a tragedy of its own and its own justification. The Palestinians must concede that the Jews are not colonialists but legal neighbors. There will not be peace if the children growing up in the Deheisheh refugee camp will not know that the country across the border is a legitimate Jewish state of a true Jewish people, whom they are decreed to live with. It is those who give up on the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state who are actually giving up on peace.
The fourth reason: An Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is to a great extent a one-sided agreement in which Israel gives and the Palestinians receive. Only the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would turn the longed-for agreement into a two-sided one. While Israel will transfer concrete assets to its neighbor, territory and rights, the Palestinians will give the only gift they are capable of giving: legitimacy.
Meir Dagan is an Israeli due a great amount of respect. His biography is a heroic one of “by the rights of power.” But peace is not made by the right of power but by the power of right. Without the Palestinians’ explicit recognition of our name, identity and rights, there will not be peace.