Turning on the 'Jewish State'

There'll be no peace if the Palestinians don’t contribute their share; but they won't contribute their share unless people who want peace insist they contribute it.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

In Washington, New York and even Tel Aviv, an overall offensive is being waged on the Jewish people’s national state. American and Israeli peace seekers are furiously attacking the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Suddenly not only the settlements are a war crime, but also the Jewish people’s demand to recognize its right to self-definition. Suddenly Zionism’s fundamental idea, which was recognized in the Balfour Declaration, the UN’s partition resolution and the Israeli Declaration of Independence, is not legitimate.

The thought that alongside the Palestinian (non-democratic) nation-state there will be a (democratic) Jewish nation-state makes many good people fly off the handle. People who are usually committed to equality are not ready to grant the Jews what they firmly demand for the Palestinians. People who want peace are rejecting out of hand the threshold demand of peace – real mutual recognition.

More than enough has been said about the essence of the matter. It’s a conflict of mutual blindness. We didn’t recognize the existence of a Palestinian people entitled to its own sovereign state and the Palestinians didn’t recognize the existence of a Jewish people entitled to its own sovereign state. It’s clear, therefore, that the end of the conflict must entail an end to the blindness. It must involve each side’s recognition of the other, whose existence and rights it has ignored for the past 100 years or so.

Israel has already opened its eyes. In 1993 it admitted that there is a Palestinian people; in 2000 Israel agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and in 2009 the right’s leader embraced this double recognition. So now it’s the Palestinians’ turn to open their eyes. When Israel accepts the principle of dividing the land on the basis of the 1967 borders, they will have to declare that there is a Jewish people with legitimate rights to the land, which is entitled to define itself as a Jewish democratic state (as long as it respects all its citizens’ rights and preserves full religious freedom). Simple, so simple. Elementary.

Yet, at the moment of truth, the simple suddenly becomes complicated. The elementary is seen as surreal, wacky. Even though Yasser Arafat already recognized the Jewish state and even though John Kerry’s peace plan was based from the start on recognizing the Jewish state, the term has suddenly become a four-letter word.

The most basic demand directed at the Palestinians is suddenly seen as a whim. Why? Because when Mahmoud Abbas says no, many in the international community and the Israeli left cave in. They lack the courage required to stand up to the Palestinians and tell them “this far.” Even when the Palestinian stance is clearly immoral, they feel an obligation to toe the line.

Prof. Alexander Yakobson is an historian who was formerly active in a peace party. When he left his party he told me its platform was excellent. The problem, he said, was that beneath the platform there was a clause written in invisible ink, saying that all the previous principles are subject to the Palestinians not opposing them. So the moment the Palestinians veto anything, the Zionist left’s platform collapses and loses its validity.

The invisible ink is the in-depth problem of the international and Israeli peace camp. Paradoxically, the invisible ink is currently one of the greatest obstacles to peace. There will be no peace if the Palestinians don’t contribute their share to it. But the Palestinians won’t contribute their share if people who want peace in Israel and the world don’t insist they contribute it.

So it’s time that those who really want to end the occupation and divide the land stand up, face Abbas and demand that he too crosses the Rubicon. If he fails to do so, the landslide will be immensely dangerous. Abbas is in danger of burying not the Jewish state, but the two-state solution.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. If he does not cross the Rubicon, he is in danger of burying not the Jewish state, but the two-state solution.Credit: Reuters

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