Arabs must recognize Jewish state

We need to hear it

Zalman Shoval, Israel Hayom, December 26, 2013

With every passing day that brings us closer to January, when the Americans intend to unveil their “framework agreement,” we see increased Palestinian efforts to sabotage and postpone the negotiation process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dispatched a diplomatic message to U.S. President Barack Obama that included the Palestinians’ traditionally extremist positions, along with an attempt to grasp onto security understandings allegedly reached during negotiations with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (“understandings” that have long passed their expiration date and which were irrelevant and discarded even at the time).

Within this context, we should pay attention to comments made by Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh, formerly a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, one of the leaders of the Fatah movement and considered to be a close confidant of Abbas, at a press conference last week. Without any attempt at disguise his words, Shtayyeh expressed what Abbas himself and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat prefer to not say aloud at this stage, as it pertains to recognizing Israel “as the Jewish national homeland” or as “the Jewish state.”

Meanwhile, even though the Palestinians are not showing any clear signs of flexibility on the other issues (refugees, Jerusalem, borders, security, etc.), it seems that the matter of recognition, or more precisely the lack of recognition, is playing an increasing role in how they conduct themselves.

On our side there are those who have raised an eyebrow and inquired, either innocently or with intent to butt heads, “Why is Netanyahu insisting so much on receiving recognition from the Palestinians?” Those who make this argument are ignoring the point or do not understand the real reasons behind the all-out war being waged by the Palestinians on this issue. Outwardly they list reasons such as the claim that defining Israel as a Jewish state could threaten the status, even the existence of non-Jews living in Israel — a demagogic argument largely aimed at slandering Israel.

But the real reason, as stated, is different: The Islamic world in general and the Palestinians in particular reject the very notion of the Jews as a nation or people, and because in their view Judaism is only a religion it stands to reason that the Jews do not deserve their own state. That is why Shtayyeh reiterated the following during his press conference: “Maybe a state for Jews, but not a Jewish state.”

What stems from this is that while the official Palestinian position supports the creation of a Palestinian state, there are quite a few Palestinians who ultimately hope for one state for two peoples (in which the Jewish minority would be allowed, in the best case, to live as second-class citizens, just as they did for centuries in various Arab lands).

“There is indeed a state called Israel, which for lack of any other choice we were forced to recognize as an existing fact because it is stronger than us militarily and because it has an ally like America,” they say, “but if the day comes when these basic variables change, we will know how to deal with this illegitimate state, which settled in our midst and which the nations of the world created at our expense to compensate the Jews for what they did to them in the Holocaust.”

Prof. Yehezkel Dror wrote years ago that even if we reach an agreement with the Palestinians (which he supported pursuing), such a thing would not necessarily guarantee an end to the conflict. Shtayyeh’s words only serve to confirm this sentiment. The recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people is the real test for the Palestinians and whether they truly are serious about peace.

The equation is simple: Not recognizing Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people means not recognizing the right of the Jewish people to its own country; in other words, Israel’s right to exist.

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