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‘Jewish State’ Still An Obstacle For Abbas
Tue, 03/18/2014 - 20:00

With the deadline for the Mideast peace talks five weeks away and little visible progress between the Palestinians and Israelis, it looks like the U.S. is more interested in saving face at this point than actually brokering a deal. The short-term goal is to get an agreement on a U.S.-drafted framework paper to allow for further talks.

The crisis over Russia’s brazen actions in Ukraine has taken precedence over the ongoing Mideast impasse, further complicating both the Iran talks and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with Russia ostensibly on the side of the West, but a stumbling block to American interests.

It’s clear that President Obama feels the onus is on Israel to break the impasse by being more conciliatory. He praised Palestinian Authority President Abbas during a White House visit this week as “somebody who has consistently renounced violence,” and the description of a peace agreement Obama envisioned made no mention of Israel as a Jewish state — a point of serious contention between the parties. 

In contrast, when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the White House a few weeks ago, he was surprised to learn that President Obama, in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View, had set the stage by publicly pressuring the Israeli leader to make progress. He also suggested that if the talks fail, the U.S. might be helpless in offsetting “the international fallout.” Goldberg described the president’s message as “a veiled threat” to Israel.

What’s more, Secretary of State Kerry seems to have backed off his insistence that a peace agreement would call for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. In congressional testimony last week he said it was “a mistake for some people to be raising” the issue “again and again as the critical decider of” the PA’s “attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace.”

Abbas made it clear on Monday that he feels the Palestinians have done enough on the issue, asserting that in 1993, they “recognized the State of Israel.” Netanyahu is insisting that the Palestinians go a step further and recognize Israel as a nation-state for the Jewish people.

Is this rhetorical conflict a matter of substance or brinksmanship?

The argument has been made that Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel without being asked to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, and some Israelis say they don’t need the Palestinians to say the words, that this is just Netanyahu raising the bar too high, purposefully, for the Palestinians to reach. But Netanyahu and many others are adamant that the refusal of the Palestinians to admit that Israel is a Jewish state lies at the very heart of the conflict. The differences with Egypt and Jordan were over land, it has been noted; this is about history. Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would also diminish if not end the Palestinian claim to the land and the “right of return” to settle within Israel’s borders.

Painfully aware that the Palestinian and Israeli narratives are parallel and never connect, U.S. peacemakers are said to be considering a framework document that would say, in effect, “from now on” Israel would be viewed as a Jewish state. No looking back at past historical accounts, just ahead to the future. It’s a clever and logical approach, but will it fly?

At the moment, both sides seem more concerned about not being blamed for a collapse of the talks then about making them succeed. And Washington is frustrated with Jerusalem and Ramallah, and distracted by the Putin putsch. All of which does not bode well for a breakthrough on either the Mideast or Iran fronts, with the clock ticking.

Israel, Mahmoud Abbas

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President Jimmy Carter’s Values, Integrity, & Ethics.

Values, Integrity & Ethics with-in our congress,
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Before proceeding with MidEast peacemaking, Mr. Kerry should take a class in basic logic.

He expressed a view lately that Israelis should not be demanding, as a prerequisite for setting up the Palestinian state, Palestinian acknowledgment of Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people.

Yet the facts Mr. Kerry adduced to support his view clearly support the Israeli position, not Mr. Kerry’s. To quote New York Times' report titled (in the New York Times’ signature blame-Israel manner) "Jewish State Declaration Is Unyielding Block to a Deal"
Mr. Kerry’s reasoning rests on "[1] the United Nations had recognized Israel as a Jewish state, [2] as did Yasir Arafat, the former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization."

Let’s think for a second. Since "the United Nations had recognized Israel as a Jewish state" it obviously follows that Palestinian state should do the same: given that UN's recognition means that it is fine and good (not to mention normal) to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the projected Palestinian state should also agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state if it wants normal relations with it.

Or how about the fact that Yasir Arafat recognized Israel as a Jewish state? It seems to logically follow that Mr. Abbas and the rest of the Palestinians should also follow Arafat's lead, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state as well.

Yet Mr. Kerry arrives at the opposite conclusion: “I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it [the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a nation-state] again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace.”

How he managed to arrive there is a deep mystery.

Of course, he is well-known for acting counter-intuitively, defending his position by a mere request to proverbially “trust him,” as he did for instance when negotiating partial relief of sanctions against Iran, assuring Americans and Israelis that “we [that is, Mr. Kerry and his boss, President Obama] are not blind, and I don’t think we are stupid.”

But given the fact that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama managed to arrive at a wrong conclusion in the matter of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, their claim to be guided by clear thinking sounds rather hollow.

Netanyahu is absolutely right when he argues that the Palestinians have to acknowledge that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. The reason is that if the Palestinians can say we recognize Israel as something other than the Jewish homeland, the Palestinians can continue their war against Jews. They can say they are fighting for a secular state, or a Marxist state, or a dual nationality state. They could easily say Jews discriminate against Arabs, and reignite the war. Everyone knows Israel is the Jewish state. For the Palestinians to refuse to openly proclaim this fact which is such an easy hurdle to clear, proves that they don't want peace.