Recognition of a Jewish state a sticking point in peace talks

abbas, kerry ,netanyahuAs Middle East peace talks churn on, Israel has catapulted to the fore an issue that may be even more intractable than old ones like security and settlements: a demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made such recognition the pillar of his public statements in recent weeks, calling it “the real key to peace,” “the minimal requirement” and “an essential condition.” Israeli, American and Palestinian officials all say it has become a core issue in the negotiations that started last summer.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s argument that this single issue underpins all others is exactly what makes it unacceptable to Palestinians. At its heart, it is a dispute over a historical narrative that each side sees as fundamental to its existence.

Critics skeptical of Mr. Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution to the long-running conflict say that recognition of a Jewish state is a poison pill that he is raising only to scuttle the talks. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has repeatedly said that the Palestinians will never agree to it, most recently in a letter to President Obama last month.

The Palestinians cite both pragmatic and philosophical reasons: They contend that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would disenfranchise its 1.6 million Arab citizens, undercut the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and, most important, require a psychological rewriting of the story they hold dear about their longtime presence in the land.

But Israeli leaders say that the refugee question can be resolved separately and that the status of Israel’s Arab minority can be protected. Without acceptance by the Palestinians that their neighbor is and will be, in Israel’s favored formulation, “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” Israelis argue that they can never be convinced that an agreement truly spells the end of the conflict.

“The core of this conflict has never been borders and settlements — it’s about one thing: the persistent refusal to accept the Jewish state in any border,” Mr. Netanyahu said last month in a video statement to the Saban Forum in Washington.

He added: “We recognize that in peace there will be a nation-state for the Palestinian people. Surely we’re entitled to expect them to do the same.”

The gulf between the two sides on the issue highlights a broader question critical to the outcome of the talks: whether a peace deal must reconcile conflicting versions of the past, or whether it can allow each version some legitimacy and focus on paving a path forward.

By emphasizing recognition, Mr. Netanyahu has also exposed several profound, unresolved questions: Can Israel preserve its identity as a Jewish democratic state while also providing equal rights and opportunities to citizens of other faiths and backgrounds? With a largely secular population, who interprets Jewish law and custom for public institutions and public spaces? Is Judaism a religion, an ethnicity or both?

“The founders of the state of Israel and the founders of Zionism felt that once we have a state, the puzzle of Jewish identity will be solved,” said Yedidia Z. Stern, a vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute. “They were totally wrong.”

“We don’t know what it means to be a Jewish state,” he said. “But does that mean we have to give it up? No way. I would leave. The reason I’m here is because this state is a Jewish state and not a neutral one.”

Many European countries, as well as Israel, grant a fast track for citizenship or otherwise give privileged status to people born elsewhere with shared roots. Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence asserted the “establishment of a Jewish state,” and Resolution 181 of the United Nations General Assembly, which in 1947 recommended the partition of Palestine, uses the term “Jewish state” 30 times. Mr. Obama and some of his predecessors have endorsed this definition.

But decades later, Israel is still grappling with what the term means. In October, its Supreme Court rejected a request by 21 citizens to be listed as “Israeli” in the national population registry, saying that to do so would belie Israel’s founding principle as a Jewish state for the Jewish people. Last year, an Arab justice on the court highlighted the conundrum when he declined to sing Israel’s national anthem, which speaks of the “yearning of the Jewish soul” to be “a free nation in our land.” Several bills pending in Parliament seek to define Israel more clearly as both Jewish and democratic, with varied emphasis on each.

Yair Lapid, a top minister in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, has distanced himself from the recognition demand, saying in an October interview, “My father did not come to Haifa from the Budapest ghetto in order to get recognition from” Mr. Abbas.

Palestinian leaders say that they have long recognized Israel’s right to exist, and that defining its character is not their responsibility, noting that Israel did not make similar requests of Egypt and Jordan when signing peace treaties with them decades ago.

“Don’t countries define themselves?” asked Hind Khoury, a former Palestinian minister and ambassador. “Why doesn’t Israel call itself at the U.N. whatever they want to call it — the Jewish whatever, Maccabean, whatever they want. Then the whole world will recognize it.”

“We will never recognize Israel the way they want, I mean genuinely, from our hearts,” she added. “Why for them to feel secure do we have to deny our most recent history?”

Polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research show that Palestinian support for such recognition has dropped over the past decade to a low of 40 percent last September, from a high of 65 percent.

“It seems the public differentiates between recognition of a fact (Israel has a Jewish majority) and recognition of a narrative (Israel has a right to a state for the Jewish people in historic Palestine),” Khalil Shikaki, the center’s director, said in an email. “Netanyahu’s conception requires the Palestinians to endorse a Zionist narrative, which they reject.”

But 73 percent of Israeli Jews supported Mr. Netanyahu’s demand, in 2010, that Palestinian recognition be a condition of an extension of a construction freeze in Israel’s West Bank settlements, according to the Israel Democracy Institute’s Peace Index.

While previous Israeli prime ministers, including Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, also declared recognition a key component of any final-status agreement, several people involved in the current negotiations said it has never been at the top of the agenda. Israel has also begun asking European nations to officially recognize it as a Jewish state, and Palestinian officials say the United States plans to include recognition as part of a framework agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to present to the two sides soon.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in an interview that even setting aside the plight of the refugees and the rights of Israeli Arabs, recognition is a problem of principle. “It’s my narrative, it’s my history, it’s my story,” he said. “I’ve never heard in the history of mankind that others must participate in defining the nature of others. It’s really ridiculous.”

Shlomo Brom, the director of the program on Israeli-Palestinian relations at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said, “The problem is mutual distrust.”

“Because of their distrust of the Israeli side, they believe there is a hidden agenda behind this demand,” Mr. Brom said of the Palestinians. For Israelis, he said, “the crux of the matter is distrust in the willingness of the Palestinians to really recognize the right of the Jews to have their own state, even to recognize the linkage of the Jews to this piece of territory.”

NY Times

  • 5thDrawer

    And there you go, folks. Two ‘theologically theorist’ theoretical states that won’t recognize each other.
    End of story. Packs of Idiots.

    • cook
      • 5thDrawer

        Really forcing El Supremo to go through Syria to get to Lebanon’s beaches. :-)))
        (Add another map to the files)

        • cook

          Hence why the FSA was created lol..

          • Hind Abyad

            You just admited to what we know (i do), that is stll denied by Israel.
            We know Israel wants Syria to go to lebanon, they have already have
            “legaly” the Golan heigths..but your arrogance has no bound No matter
            if you support Israel more than Herzl himself.

      • man-o-war

        Nice map Richard! Did you make this for art class? Great use of your imagination.

        • cook

          Balfour Declaration combined with San Remo agreement, learn history

          • man-o-war

            What history class did you learn that in? What happened to the maps that came after this? 1948 map, 1967 map, and maps of today. Do you just pick and choose the history that best fits your narrative? You ignore resolutions unless it suits you, you ignore maps, ignore international law. Has Israel even defined its borders yet?

          • cook

            1949 armistice lines are not borders, it was a ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan’s illegal occupation (illegal as recognized by the Arab league). There are no legal borders beyond the San Remo agreement seeing as the Arabs rejected the 1947 partition, and is therefore null and void.

            Name me the law which states it was legal for Jordan to destroy dozens of synagogues and deport Jews from east Jerusalem, but illegal for them to move back to their neighborhoods as a result of a self defense war in 1967.

  • 5thDrawer

    And there you go, folks. Two ‘theologically theorist’ theoretical states that won’t recognize each other.
    End of story. Packs of Idiots.

    • cook2half

      I do recognize an Arab palestinian state actually, its called Jordan.

      http://4.bp.blogspot.COM/-FOyKJBO6kN4/UkvEBKcIdfI/AAAAAAAAB-
      4/z0AmJ3vZuXM/s400/IsraelMapReduction1922-mandate_for_palestine.jpg

      • 5thDrawer

        Really forcing El Supremo to go through Syria to get to Lebanon’s beaches. :-)))
        (Add another map to the files)

        • cook2half

          Hence why the FSA was created lol..

          • Hind Abyad

            You just admited to what we know (i do), that is stll denied by Israel.
            We know Israel wants Syria to go to lebanon, they have already have
            “legaly” the Golan heigths..but your arrogance has no bound No matter
            if you support Israel more than Herzl himself.

      • man-o-war

        Nice map Richard! Did you make this for art class? Great use of your imagination.

        • cook2half

          Balfour Declaration combined with San Remo agreement, learn history

          • man-o-war

            What history class did you learn that in? What happened to the maps that came after this? 1948 map, 1967 map, and maps of today. Do you just pick and choose the history that best fits your narrative? You ignore resolutions unless it suits you, you ignore maps, ignore international law. Has Israel even defined its borders yet?

          • cook2half

            1949 armistice lines are not borders, it was a ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan’s illegal occupation (illegal as recognized by the Arab league). There are no legal borders beyond the San Remo agreement seeing as the Arabs rejected the 1947 partition, and is therefore null and void.

            Name me the law which states it was legal for Jordan to destroy dozens of synagogues and deport Jews from east Jerusalem, but illegal for them to move back to their neighborhoods as a result of a self defense war in 1967.

  • cook

    Declare Oslo null and void, send these terrorists back to Tunisia and Beirut

    • man-o-war

      Richard Cabeza at it again! When you call Palestinians terrorists and declare they should be sent away it makes you look like a jackass. It also makes it very very hard to take you serious.

      • cook

        Are you palestinian………..

        • man-o-war

          No, I’m human. You?

          • cook

            Same, but I cant imagine why you defend them so much..

          • man-o-war

            I feel the same way about you when it comes to Israel and Zionism. Also, some of your comments makes me question your humanity.

          • cook

            Im an OK person in real life :))

          • Peaceforleb

            Cookie, I’m sure you are, however God you speak some shit sometimes. Just saying bro.

          • cook

            That’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me here, LOL. Im a CNN person so im used to seeing hate speech/spam, affects me at times, lol.

          • Peaceforleb

            Its never personal Cook, Now ease up on the crap a little. lol

          • cook

            Look at my comments history on what im posting on. Its so much stress on me you dont even know lol. Thanks for your kind words, PeaceforIsrael 🙂

          • Peaceforleb

            Not just PeaceforIsrael Cook, You should be wishing peace around the world.

          • cook

            We’ll see

          • cook

            Kiddiiing I love you and all of humanity, including @disqus_ySaFAwotsk:disqus LOL

          • …some guy

            Cookie, I will also say something nice to you so enjoy it as it wont last long (hate mail is on the way) lol, seriously I dig your sense of humor and how you are willing to almost say anything to get a reaction out of people…I often do the same but seriously bro I know that all men are born honest but all die as liars but seriously? born in iran? not Israeli? not Jewish? not religious? not mossadie? you got some explaining to do bro lol

          • cook

            I defend Israel from a historical and legal point of view, I rarely take morality/ethics into account when discussing international politics/law. Seriously, im sorry that im a total spamqueen sometimes and I wish to get along with everyone here well. On CNN I deal with such assholes you have no idea (ive posted 300 posts just today LOL), so anywhere else I automatically assume its the same environment lol.

            No I’m not Jewish, I dont defend or care about the Jewish religion. Never even read the Torah.

          • Peaceforleb

            See Cookie, that wasn’t so bad. There was no crap in that post. Well done my friend. lol

          • cook

            شكرا جزيلا مش صعب أن اتكلم مثل انسان عادي lol

          • …some guy

            Cookie, you are not kidding about comments on cnn, no matter how tragic or important the story is by the time you get to the 3rd comment all is lost in relation to the story and the slug fest begins with the whole thing becoming about obamacare or race issues, terrible but true profile of the culture and how shallow and loveless people are in general hence the jerry springer like culture taking over.
            If you were jewish or Israeli I have not issue with it whatsoever, allegedly I have some jewish blood who knows I am almost certain I was switched at birth or the milk man struck again :(.what a scandal lol.

          • cook

            Oh god so first maybe 20 comments its about the article, and then next 5000 comments its people threatening and insulting each other to the max. Jeez I have a headache after hours of being there lol.

            Nope Im Iranian and part Russian, 0 Jewish blood

          • …some guy

            Half Ayatollah Half putin :)P

          • 5thDrawer

            Excuse me if I don’t get on CNN.

          • Hind Abyad

            I won’ take four roads; you’re a Hitler playing Candide

      • cook

        You know full well that PLO terrorists like Arafat have absolutely no family or personal roots in Israel, theyre as palestinian as my foot

  • cook2half

    Declare Oslo null and void, send these terrorists back to Tunisia and Beirut

    • man-o-war

      Richard Cabeza at it again! When you call Palestinians terrorists and declare they should be sent away it makes you look like a jackass. It also makes it very very hard to take you serious.

      • cook2half

        Are you palestinian………..

        • man-o-war

          No, I’m human. You?

          • cook2half

            Same, but I cant imagine why you defend them so much..

          • man-o-war

            I feel the same way about you when it comes to Israel and Zionism. Also, some of your comments makes me question your humanity.

          • cook2half

            Im an OK person in real life :))

          • Peaceforleb

            Cookie, I’m sure you are, however God you speak some shit sometimes. Just saying bro.

          • cook2half

            That’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me here, LOL. Im a CNN person so im used to seeing hate speech/spam, affects me at times, lol.

          • Peaceforleb

            Its never personal Cook, Now ease up on the crap a little. lol

          • cook2half

            Look at my comments history on what im posting on. Its so much stress on me you dont even know lol. Thanks for your kind words, PeaceforIsrael 🙂

          • Peaceforleb

            Not just PeaceforIsrael Cook, You should be wishing peace around the world.

          • cook2half

            We’ll see

          • cook2half

            Kiddiiing I love you and all of humanity, including @disqus_ySaFAwotsk:disqus LOL

          • Geo

            Cookie, I will also say something nice to you so enjoy it as it wont last long (hate mail is on the way) lol, seriously I dig your sense of humor and how you are willing to almost say anything to get a reaction out of people…I often do the same but seriously bro I know that all men are born honest but all die as liars but seriously? born in iran? not Israeli? not Jewish? not religious? not mossadie? you got some explaining to do bro lol

          • cook2half

            I defend Israel from a historical and legal point of view, I rarely take morality/ethics into account when discussing international politics/law. Seriously, im sorry that im a total spamqueen sometimes and I wish to get along with everyone here well. On CNN I deal with such assholes you have no idea (ive posted 300 posts just today LOL), so anywhere else I automatically assume its the same environment lol.

            No I’m not Jewish, I dont defend or care about the Jewish religion. Never even read the Torah.

          • Peaceforleb

            See Cookie, that wasn’t so bad. There was no crap in that post. Well done my friend. lol

          • cook2half

            شكرا جزيلا مش صعب أن اتكلم مثل انسان عادي lol

          • Geo

            Cookie, you are not kidding about comments on cnn, no matter how tragic or important the story is by the time you get to the 3rd comment all is lost in relation to the story and the slug fest begins with the whole thing becoming about obamacare or race issues, terrible but true profile of the culture and how shallow and loveless people are in general hence the jerry springer like culture taking over.
            If you were jewish or Israeli I have not issue with it whatsoever, allegedly I have some jewish blood who knows I am almost certain I was switched at birth or the milk man struck again :(.what a scandal lol.

          • cook2half

            Oh god so first maybe 20 comments its about the article, and then next 5000 comments its people threatening and insulting each other to the max. Jeez I have a headache after hours of being there lol.

            Nope Im Iranian and part Russian, 0 Jewish blood

          • Geo

            Half Ayatollah Half putin :)P

          • 5thDrawer

            Excuse me if I don’t get on CNN.

          • Hind Abyad

            I won’ take four roads; you’re a Hitler playing Candide

      • cook2half

        You know full well that PLO terrorists like Arafat have absolutely no family or personal roots in Israel, theyre as palestinian as my foot

  • Btru2u

    The Palestinians cite both pragmatic and philosophical reasons: They contend that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would disenfranchise its 1.6 million Arab citizens, undercut the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and, most important, require a psychological rewriting of the story they hold dear about their longtime presence in the land.
    By Looking at Israel’s thieving and bloody murderering history , an admission by the Palestinians to recognise its illegal existence as legal, will spell an increase in the continued exploitation and theft of the Palestinians rightfully ownership of the land The zionists propaganda and military machine , will be at full throttle if this ever happens. And we know that any peace agreement can be easily waive red by any small created incident, (false flag operation) that serves Israel’s interest . Eg: 911.

    • Peaceforleb

      Btru2u, In your opinion, why do you think Jihad has not been called to assist the Palestinians in their battle against oppression. I mean how long has it been, 60 years and still not one call from the Arab countries to assist their so called Muslim brothers. Don’t you think that instead of calling for Jihad in Syria, Palestine should have been first in line.

      • Btru2u

        The uprising are the beginnings of the attempt to remove the entrenched western puppets that were installed after ww2. The wests biggest threat in the reestablishment of a united. Muslim empire with nuclear technology and abundant resources.
        I believe Syria will be where the new caliphate will first appear. They will have learnt big lessons which they have paid a big price for. Inshallah support in the Muslim world and with people for justice, will quickly gain ground ,and free the Palestinians from their oppressors.

        • Peaceforleb

          But still, don’t you think the first uprising should have been in Palestine. Isn’t it the case that Israel is supposed to be the biggest enemy of Islam. How could real Muslims that have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and so on who come to fight in Syria against who the Sunni extremist call a infidel, yet they have sat on the sidelines for all these years and watched while their Muslim brothers and sisters are being slaughtered at the hands of the enemy of Islam. I just don’t get it.

          • doron

            hey Peace,doint draw his attention here
            the black flag of AQ is already in WB and Gaza.

    • cook

      Try learning real historic facts for once
      What your madrasa is teaching you is not history

      • Hind Abyad

        What they teach you i Isral dadrassa? alse revisonist hisrorys, Sharon was a angell
        orrouptions,

  • Btru2u

    The Palestinians cite both pragmatic and philosophical reasons: They contend that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would disenfranchise its 1.6 million Arab citizens, undercut the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and, most important, require a psychological rewriting of the story they hold dear about their longtime presence in the land.
    By Looking at Israel’s thieving and bloody murderering history , an admission by the Palestinians to recognise its illegal existence as legal, will spell an increase in the continued exploitation and theft of the Palestinians rightfully ownership of the land The zionists propaganda and military machine , will be at full throttle if this ever happens. And we know that any peace agreement can be easily waive red by any small created incident, (false flag operation) that serves Israel’s interest . Eg: 911.

    • Peaceforleb

      Btru2u, In your opinion, why do you think Jihad has not been called to assist the Palestinians in their battle against oppression. I mean how long has it been, 60 years and still not one call from the Arab countries to assist their so called Muslim brothers. Don’t you think that instead of calling for Jihad in Syria, Palestine should have been first in line.

      • Btru2u

        The uprising are the beginnings of the attempt to remove the entrenched western puppets that were installed after ww2. The wests biggest threat in the reestablishment of a united. Muslim empire with nuclear technology and abundant resources.
        I believe Syria will be where the new caliphate will first appear. They will have learnt big lessons which they have paid a big price for. Inshallah support in the Muslim world and with people for justice, will quickly gain ground ,and free the Palestinians from their oppressors.

        • Peaceforleb

          But still, don’t you think the first uprising should have been in Palestine. Isn’t the case that Israel is supposed to be the biggest enemy of Islam. How could real Muslims that have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and so on who come to fight in Syria against who the Sunni extremist call a infidel, yet they have sat on the sidelines for all these years and watched while their Muslim brothers and sisters are being slaughter at the hands of the enemy of Islam. I just don’t get it.

          • doron

            hey Peace,doint draw his attention here
            the black flag of AQ is already in WB and Gaza.

    • cook2half

      Try learning real historic facts for once
      What your madrasa is teaching you is not history

      • Hind Abyad

        What they teach you i Isral dadrassa? alse revisonist hisrorys, Sharon was a angell
        orrouptions,