saeb erekat 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Yasser Arafat recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988. He shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin and signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. The PLO later ostensibly amended its covenant, as Bill Clinton visited Gaza, to eliminate calls for Israel's destruction. Most recently, the Palestinians approved the road map, which again was based upon recognition of Israel's right to exist.
So the Palestinians accept Israel's existence, right? Well, perhaps not. Now, on the eve of Annapolis, we discover that all of these claims of recognition may have been a giant sham.
On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "The problem of the content of the document [setting out joint principles for peacemaking post-Annapolis] has not been resolved... One of the more pressing problems is the Zionist regime's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state.
"We will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state," Erekat said. "There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined."
On Tuesday, another prominent Palestinian negotiator, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said, "It is only a Zionist party that deals with Israel as a Jewish state, and we did not request to be a member of the international Zionism movement."
Yesterday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad joined in these statements. And Erekat chimed in again on Al-Arabiya TV: "Israel can define itself however it sees fit; and if it wishes to call itself a Jewish state, so be it. But the Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity." (emphasis added).
All this is mind-boggling from an Israeli perspective. To Jews and Israelis, it is obvious that if Israel is not a Jewish state, meaning (at least) a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority, than it would simply become the 22nd Arab state. Israel would cease to exist.
The Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state suggests that all their solemn and myriad expressions of Israel's right to exist did not mean anything. They did not mean that the Palestinians accepted the Jews as a people (as Palestinians expect to be accepted), or that Israel is the legitimate expression of the Jewish people's right to self-determination.
Erekat's claim that the "intertwining" of religious and national identity is unusual, let alone unique, is nonsense. Perhaps he has not heard of the Islamic Conference, a group of 55 states, or the Church of England. While Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, will officially not let Jews set foot in their country, Israel has never seen a contradiction between its Jewishness and the need to respect and protect non-Jewish minorities.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated this week that Israel would not participate in any post-Annapolis negotiations except on the basis of Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. In essence, Israel is demanding that the Palestinians end their double game.
If Israel is not a Jewish state, it is Palestine, which is exactly the point. So long as they hold to their positions, Fayad, Erekat and Abed Rabbo, representing Palestinian "moderates," are not espousing a two-state solution but a "Greater Palestine" ideology.
There is no way for Israelis to understand the refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state other than as a rejection of the two-state solution and the embrace of the "strategy of stages," whereby a Palestinian state is not an end of claims against Israel, but a down-payment toward Israel's destruction.
As Olmert says, there is no point in entering a "peace process" on this basis. Every conception of the two-state vision has assumed a foundation of genuine mutual recognition. The first point of the first phase of the road map, for example, begins: "Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security...."
Oslo's Statement of Principles begins, "[Israel and the PLO] agree that it is time to... recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights...."
The 1947 UN partition plan called for dividing mandatory Palestine "into Jewish and Arab states."
Without mutual recognition, there is no basis for negotiation. The Palestinians expect Israel to accept their existence and rights as a people. The Jewish people expects no less.
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