(photo credit: Linda Gradstein/The Media Line)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s
ultimate demand of the Palestinians is their acknowledgment of Israel’s
legitimacy as the historic homeland of the Jewish People; their recognition of
Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Palestinian acceptance of
Israel’s just claim to (at least part of) the Land of Israel is needed as a
bulwark against the irredentist and destructive Palestinian demand for refugee
return, which would swamp Israel and destroy its unique Jewish character. It is
meant to bring an end to the Palestinian political culture that regards Israel
as an illegitimate intrusion into the region. It is meant to bring finality to
Netanyahu is right in making this a matter of principle in
negotiations over a grand peace accord; one that truly will mark an end to all
Palestinian and Arab claims against Israel.
Halevai (how I wish) that
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could bring himself to do so; to
admit to Israel’s legitimacy as the Jewish state. It indeed would be a
significant, historic moment of Arab-Israeli reconciliation.
But I ask:
What if Abbas says the magic words? What if Abbas mutters a carefully worded and
specifically dictated formulation in which he “accepts” Israel’s right to exist
as a Jewish state? What if he grunts an acknowledgment of the Jewish People’s
historic connection to the land? What if mumbles something about a “harmonious
future for two states – one Palestinian and one Jewish,” or something like that?
That would be great, and important indeed. But then what? Then Israel is
expected to roll lock, stock and barrel out of eastern Jerusalem and all of
Judea and Samaria? Then Israel is expected to bow to the Clinton/
Obama/Kerry/Abbas parameters for Israeli withdrawal? Then Israel’s security
requirements and historic rights in Judea and Samaria vanish into thin air? In
other words, I am concerned about the dynamic that Netanyahu has set in place.
By making the demand for Palestinian “acceptance” of Israel’s legitimacy as a
Jewish state – a significant rhetorical concession – into the ultimate
Palestinian concession, Netanyahu is creating a situation in which Israel will
be pressed to completely fold. He is creating a situation in which this
“ultimate” Palestinian “concession” will have to be matched by an ultimate
Israeli concession – such as the division of Jerusalem and acceptance of the
pre-1967 lines as the baseline border between Israel and the Palestinian
By insisting that Abbas cross his “redline” (which is what Abbas
calls our demand for his recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; something he
says he “never” will do), Netanyahu will be forced to violate Israel’s
I am concerned that Netanyahu has accepted this dynamic. He may
knowingly be entering this situation, planning to use it as cover for explaining
to the people of Israel his grudging withdrawal from almost all of the West
Bank. He could seek to justify such an earth-shattering Israeli rollback by
referencing Abbas’s “brave” and “earth-shattering” announcement.
seek to anchor extensive Israeli territorial withdrawals in Abbas’s rhetorical
withdrawal of Palestinian designs to destroy Israel.
YOU MIGHT SAY:
Halevai that Israel should reach such a situation; it would be a good deal. But
I think not.
Consider the realities on the ground.
If Abbas were
to say the magic words recognizing Israel’s Jewish character, would that make
Israel sanguine about the nature of the Palestinian regime that rules in the
West Bank? Or would Israel still be left to deal with a kleptocracy that has
little legitimacy among its own population, and little ability to rein in the
forces of radical Islam rising in its own territory? If Abbas were to say the
magic words recognizing Israel’s Jewish character, would that bring peace to
southern Israel? Or would Israel still be left confronting a genocidal and
armed-tothe- teeth Hamas government in Gaza? If Abbas were to say the magic
words recognizing Israel’s Jewish character, would that make it wise to withdraw
Israeli troops from the highlands of Samaria or the border crossings on the
Jordan, relying instead on American Gen. (ret.) John Allen’s technological
solutions? Or would continuing Israeli control of Areas C and ongoing IDF raids
into Areas A and B still be necessary to ensure security in central Israel? If
Abbas were to say the magic words recognizing Israel’s Jewish character, would
that make right an Israeli abandonment of Har Bracha, Beit El, Tekoa and Kiryat
Arba? Or would this be an atrocity against the historical Jewish rights in the
Land of Israel that Netanyahu so wants Abbas to recognize? If Abbas were to say
the magic words recognizing Israel’s Jewish character, would that make the
sundering of united Jerusalem into competing sovereignties worthwhile? Or would
it wreck the city for generations, bringing misery to Jews and Arabs alike, and
heaping ignominy on Jewish and Zionist history? In short, the “magic words” are
not magic bullets that should win the jackpot for the Palestinians.
are a necessary ingredient of a true peace process, but they are not sufficient.
Netanyahu must insist on real reforms of the Palestinian Authority, an end to
Hamas rule in Gaza, wide margins of territorial security, Israeli settlement
rights, and the unity of Jerusalem – in addition to the magic
Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish
state should not automatically mean Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line. It
should mean the beginning of real reconciliation and the opening of
possibilities for a realistic peace in parameters hitherto unimaginable.