Palestinian boys holding symbolic keys in Ramallah 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Initial indications suggest that in his upcoming Middle East policy speech, President Barack Obama will ask the Palestinians to recognize Israel, but not as the homeland of the Jewish people. It seems that the US president believes – as some suggest – that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, is merely a hawkish ploy to avoid negotiations and a sad mark of Israel’s low self-confidence that it needs the Palestinians – of all people – to tell it what it is.
But the prime minister’s demand is neither of those things. It is the one core demand that, once met, will mean that peace is truly possible. Indeed, Israel does not need Palestinian recognition of its identity as the Jewish state. Those who have dreamt, founded and built it have done so with one purpose in mind: to create a homeland for the Jewish people. It is Israel’s raison d’être. Rather, it is the Palestinians – for their own sake and dignity – who need to recognize this.
Zionism has been a political movement of self-determination for the
Jewish people. The Palestinian national movement was about resisting
Zionism and its program of building a state. In the process of
resisting, and given the continued failure of resistance, the
Palestinians have told themselves a story according to which Zionism is a
colonial movement that has brought strangers to their land, strangers
who – faced with determined resistance – are destined, sooner or later,
to leave it. In doing so, the Palestinians might have been telling
themselves a comforting story of hope, but one that they had better
discard if they are ever to have a state of their own.
Hope is generally considered a positive word, but if it prevents
engagement with reality while living in suspended anticipation of some
make-believe future that will never materialize, then it is neither
positive nor helpful. Those who feed this hope do the cause of peace and
Palestinian statehood no favor.
Zionism, unlike colonial movements, was a movement of people who were
coming home. As such, it was not about exploiting the (nonexistent)
resources of a foreign land, but about exploiting the only resources the
Jewish people ever had – their own brains and ingenuity – in order to
build one, literally from the ground up.
Building a country requires the mobilization of a people.
As long as the Palestinians continue to divert their own
country-building resources into resisting Israel and hoping for its
disappearance (and yes, hoping that Israel will become a country with a
Jewish minority among Arabs is hoping for its disappearance), there will
be no peace, and they will have no state.
And yet, should the Palestinians finally recognize that in creating the
state of Israel, the Jewish people have come home, they will signal to
the world, to Israel, and above all to themselves, that they have chosen
to leave behind the siren call of resistance and are ready to get down
to the remarkable, difficult and immensely rewarding task of building a
state they can call their own.
The writer is a member of Knesset within the Independence Party and sits on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.