Omitting the flag

The omission of the Israeli flag this week in the Mukata is just a symptom of a much deeper problem.

PA President Abbas in Ramallah (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
PA President Abbas in Ramallah
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
On July 31, when members of Labor MK Hilik Bar’s Knesset Caucus to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict hosted Palestinian Authority politicians in the Israeli parliament, a Palestinian flag was displayed alongside Israel’s.
Thirty-three lawmakers from several parties representing the majority of the Knesset’s 120 MKs were present for this precedent-setting occasion.
There were MKs from Labor, Meretz, Hadash and Balad. But there were also MKs and ministers from coalition party Yesh Atid and from the haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.
At the time, Muhammad Madani, a Fatah Central Committee member and head of the Palestinian delegation, invited the MKs to Ramallah and promised to fly both the Israeli and Palestinian flags during the visit.
This week, Madani made good on his invitation – at least partially. On Monday, nine Labor MKs and Hatnua’s David Tsur traveled to Ramallah to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the Mukata presidential compound. Several Palestinian officials, including Madani and PLO executive committee secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo, attended the event. Shas MKs had planned to come as well, but Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s death kept them away.
Yet one other thing was conspicuously missing – the Israeli flag. There were two Palestinian flags in the room, a large portrait of Yasser Arafat and a mural of the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock mosque prominently featured. But despite Madani’s promise, there was no Israeli flag. Apparently Abbas did not want pictures taken of him with an Israel flag in the background to be plastered all over Palestinian newspapers.
Perhaps there should not be too much emphasis placed on the flag’s absence. The Jewish standard is probably not easy to come by in Ramallah or other Palestinian cities, though Bar would have been more than happy to bring one along with him.
Still, Abbas’s refusal to reciprocate Israel’s magnanimous gesture touches on a much more serious issue, which was at the heart of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech this week – namely that the Palestinian refusal to recognize the “nation-state of the Jewish people” is the principal obstacle to peace.
Netanyahu was not referring to a solely pro forma declaration on the part of the Palestinians. Rather, the prime minister was addressing ongoing incitement against Israel in official PA media, including the glorification of terrorists who have killed Israeli civilians; the fact that locations inside the Green Line such as Acre, Jaffa and Haifa are still mentioned as belonging to “Palestine”; the official Palestinian line that rejects the Jewish people’s historical, religious and cultural ties to the Land of Israel, especially on the Temple Mount; and the nurturing of hopes that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian “refugees” will be permitted to return to their homes inside the Green Line.
UNFORTUNATELY THE idea that the Jewish people are “colonialists” who have no justification for creating a uniquely Jewish state in the Land of Israel is widespread. Ian Lustick, a political scientist from the University of Pennsylvania, who had been a longtime proponent of a two-state solution, recently wrote that such a resolution to the conflict “would have made Israel the only European fragment society to have successfully institutionalized its presence in a non-European region without effectively eliminating the aboriginal population.”
Lustick and other experts on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict see Israelis, even those who immigrated to Israel from Muslim countries in the region, as a “European fragment society” no different from the British in India or Kenya, the Belgians in the Congo, the Afrikaners in South Africa.
As long as the Palestinians view Zionists as just another colonialist white settler movement, there is little chance of reaching a two-state solution in which both sides recognize the legitimacy of the other to live here in peace and security.
The omission of the Israeli flag this week in the Mukata is just a symptom of a much deeper problem.