Commentary: Not accepting Israel as a Jewish state will exacerbate conflict
During the current peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians sponsored by the Obama administration, the Israelis requested that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the home of the Jewish people.
Last week, the Arab League reinforced its position that its members will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The main idea behind the Israelis’ request was to determine whether the true intention of the Palestinians is to create a state of their own, or if their desire is actually to flood Israel with 3 million Palestinian refugees and descendants and then demand they become citizens of Israel.
In the past, peace negotiations failed because, among other things, Palestinian leadership demanded the right of return to Israel proper.
For obvious reasons, if Israel accepted that proposition, it would cease to be a Jewish state – the reason it was created.
Such a dramatic shift is unacceptable to the government of Israel and to the majority of Israelis who seek a lasting peace in the Middle East. A situation where the Jews are no longer the majority of the population in Israel would undoubtedly lead to a sectarian tension between Arabs and Jews. Israel would fail to be the full-fledged democracy it strives to be.
A civil war is even more plausible, given the anti-Semitic incitement and war of propaganda that takes place in the Palestinian territories every day.
Therefore, the best option is to separate the two peoples into different states. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, like Chairman Yasser Arafat before him, wanted a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. At the same time, Abbas insists on having millions of Palestinians living in Israel.
When Abbas returned from Washington to Ramallah last week, he carefully planned a rally where he was received by cheering crowds. He bragged about the fact that he did not acquiesce to any demand. In fact, Abbas bolstered his position regarding the return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel.
It quickly became clear that after eight months of negotiations, Abbas was openly proud to announce his unwillingness to negotiate on any of the divisive issues that prevent a peace agreement.
The Jewish people are a nation. Like every other nation, as such, they have a right to self-determination.
The creation of nation states through divisions or unifications is nothing new. The entire political map of Europe was divided into nation-states following the doctrine of President Woodrow Wilson. Poland was given to the Poles, Hungary to the Hungarians, so on and so forth. In the late 19th century, national feelings in countries such as Italy led to their unification. And yet, you rarely hear the questioning of Italians, Hungarians or Poles’ right to self-determination.
Israel was created by international law with a partition resolution in 1947 that defined it as “Jewish.” Regardless, it was in the battlefield where the Jews eventually had to secure the state granted to them by the United Nations. Israel had to fight a very hostile Arab population and the invasion of several Arab armies. Moreover, Arab countries expelled more than 500,000 Jewish citizens from their borders in retaliation for the creation of the state of Israel.
By contrast, Arabs who remained in Israeli territory have received citizenship and rights in the state of Israel: this includes full access to health care, education and political representation. While there is still room for improvement, today Arabs are serving as senior officials, judges, diplomats and in other key aspects of social and political life. The complex larger Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts make a successful integration of the Arab-Israeli minority more difficult – but not impossible.
Quite simply: Peace between the parties is unobtainable as long as the Palestinians continue to demand the absorption of a potentially hostile population into Israeli society.
Written by Dr. Luis Fleischman, vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.
Article appeared in The Palm Beach Post, Tuesday, April 8, 2014.
The opinions expressed in the above article do not reflect the opinions of Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.