Toval thinks recognizing Israel as Jewish useless, misses the point

Posted: May 12, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel, Own Articles, Palestinians, Peace Process, Terrorism

palestinians LATEST NYT COMMENTARY on Israeli-Palestinian issue is Yonatan Toval’s piece criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu for demanding Palestinians’ recognition of Israel as ‘Jewish’. Toval believes such demands hinder advancement of the Peace Process:

Yet, while the demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist was unique (after all, it is non-states that customarily seek such recognition from already existing states), the more recent demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state is dangerous. It must be resisted by those who care about Israel’s long-term strategic interests.

First, it is a hindrance to negotiations for the simple reason that the Palestinians won’t accept it. No sooner did Netanyahu make his demand than Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected it, saying: “Name yourself the Hebrew Socialist Republic — it is none of my business.”

And Abbas is right, for Israel’s demand concerns the national, cultural and religious dimensions of the country’s own Jewish identity. To ask the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is to confuse the realm of international relations with that of Israel’s internal self-fashioning.

The ambiguity of the demand is highlighted by the fact that the variations on Israel’s requirements for recognition now add up to three. The other two are recognition of Israel’s right to exist and formal recognition of Israel as a state. The very discrepancy in the demands suggests either that Israel has not decided what is important or — what seems to be the case — that it keeps raising the ante in order to block any dialogue whatsoever.

Toval, mind you, is the member of the ‘Geneva Initiative’, a body of several left-wing politicians and public figures (many of whom belong to radical left-wing fractions, such as MERETZ). It’s all great… As long as you don’t look ‘under the hood’.

First and foremost, Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist stems from unwillingness of several Palestinian factions – including Gaza-controlling Hamas and Islamic Jihad – to recognize Israel at all, calling to destroy it instead. Israel’s demand that Palestinians – all Palestinians – recognize Israel’s right to exist is imperative prerequisite to peace. How can you make peace, when large chunks of opponent’s population wants you destroyed? At the moment, while Mahmoud-Abbas-controlled territories are relatively calm, Hamas-controlled Gaza is all but tranquility, with Gazans still firing rockets into Israeli territory. So, to answer Toval’s first point – Israel demands recognition of itself from Palestinians – and other Arab states, for that matter – as prerequisite for peace. As long as Arab states – Palestinians, Iran, Syria – do not publically recognize Israel’s right to exist, they cannot be trusted to sustain peace.

Then comes the question: why would Palestinians need to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

One of cornerstones of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian ‘refugees’ from all around the Middle East, into Israel. We are talking about Israel within 1967 borders here. Mind you, for Palestinians, the ‘refugees’ are the people who moved out of Palestine during the 1948 and 1967 wars, and their families, and their children, born outside of Palestine. Current count – about two million souls. Current population of Israel – about seven and a half million, consisting – among others – of 1,5 million Arabs. Thus, were are talking about 3,5 million Arabs for Israel within 1967 borders, thus making Israel a state with Jewish minority within 30 years.

Moreover, many Palestinians – including Mahmoud Abbas himself – demand a democratic state, alongside Palestinian state. Translation: a state for virtually anyone, alongside Palestinian sovereign state.

The Jews, however, want a state for the Jews, the way Israel was originally authored. The Jews want a homeland for the Jews, not everyone.

By the way, we have a great example of such tactics – currently employed by Palestinians – and what it leads to: Lebanon. The richest community in the local Middle East, the country slowly turned Muslim, effectively bringing Christian majority into minority in 1930s. Newly-settled Arab population demanded increased representation and rights, slowly dragging the country into civil war, with former majority members persecuted and executed on check points erected by Arab fighters. This, no doubt, will be the fate of Israel, unless fair resolution to the conflict is found.

One thing Toval is right about: demands for recognition of Israel as Jewish would put an obstacle to negotiations. How genuine, though, would ‘peace’ between Israelis and Palestinians be, if Arab states still resent the Jewish nature of Israel? They do not have to love it, but they have to learn to live with Israel being Jewish. Otherwise, such ‘peace’ would simply postpone the war, until another radical takes control of Palestine. This time, however, Israel would suffer dire consequences, lacking strategic depth, with enemy fighter planes able to reach Tel Aviv within minutes, and Palestinian terrorists able to fire Qassam rockets directly into most Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Peace is essential. Real peace.

  1. Well, it’s all hypothetical, as this is not the case. Israel is ready to recognize Abbas’ state as ‘Palestinian’, as well as remove Jews from its midst.

  2. Larry Ramer says:

    What if Israel agreed to recognize Abbas’ state but refused to ever recognize it as a state for Palestinians and insisted that Jews must be allowed to stay there? (as Arabs will stay in Israel). Abbas and the rest of the world would never accept that.

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