In the week preceding Annapolis, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, dropped a bombshell proclaiming that “one of the more pressing problems is the Zionist regime’s insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state… Israel could call itself whatever it wanted, but the PA would never acknowledge Israel’s Jewish identity.”
Erekat also made the bizarre observation that “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.” Yet the PA constitution stipulates that Islamic law will become the basis for the future Palestinian state and the PA reiterates its determination to ensure that its territory remain “Judenrein.” Nor does Erekat relate to the fact that 57 nations are affiliated to the Islamic Conference, many of whom deny Christians and Jews freedom of worship. Erekat’s remarks were immediately endorsed by other major Palestinian leaders.
In response, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert repeatedly vowed “we won’t hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state…Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me.”
Yet the final joint communique at Annapolis omitted any reference to a Jewish state and subsequently PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab League adamantly reiterated their determination never to accept a Jewish state.
As far back as 1922 the League of Nations referred to a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine. The UN Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947 related 25 times to a “Jewish state.” As recently as May 2006 President George W. Bush expressed his “strong commitment to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state” and in his Annapolis statement described “Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people.”
The Arab denial of Israel as a Jewish state lies at the very heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It became the rationale for the Arab portrayal of the Jewish claim to statehood as being based on war and occupation rather than faith and nationhood. The latest declarations attest that to this day, this fundamental Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state has not altered one iota.
Article 20 of the Palestinian National Covenant explicitly states: “Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own.”
In reinforcing their denial of Israel as the sovereign land of the Jews, the Palestinians (now bolstered by radical Israeli Arabs) even deny the ancient historical Jewish links to Jerusalem going so far as to allege that the Jewish temple was a Zionist myth concocted to justify Jewish colonization.
Regrettably the architects of Oslo compounded the problems inherent in their flawed peace plan by failing to confront the Palestinians with the core issue of accepting Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
Subsequently, we ignored Arafat’s repeated guarantees to the Arabs that he would never accept the validity of a Jewish state. It was only when he rejected Ehud Barak’s offer to effectively withdraw to ’67 borders that it finally dawned on most Israelis that the elimination of the “alien” Jewish presence in the region remained Arafat’s overriding objective.
Now, despite the hype and euphoria prevailing during Annapolis, we must hearken to Abbas’s and Erekat’s wake-up call reaffirming the PA’s unequivocal determination not to accept a Jewish regional presence. Instead of the customary duplicitous double-talk about peace and goodwill, Abbas and Erekat spoke the truth. Their words underline the absurdity of the mantra that the Israel-Palestinian conflict represents a struggle between two peoples seeking accommodation over land.
In again denying Jewish sovereignty, they also demonstrate that the “moderate” PA and the “extremist” Hamas remain birds of a feather. They also highlight the fact that since the “moderate” Abbas inherited the mantle of Arafat, the fundamental attitudes toward Israel within the PA remain unchanged.
The ongoing Palestinian employment of terror and incitement against Israel is based on this premise. Hatred against Jews who are dehumanized and portrayed as pigs and monkeys, is inculcated from kindergarten level and infuses the entire Palestinian religious, cultural and educational framework as well as the media. The sanctification of martyrdom as a means of reaching Paradise is ongoing, with suicide bombers who kill Jews enshrined as heroes in monuments and memorials, and even have football teams named after them. To this day, our peace partner Abbas provides pensions to the families of “martyrs.” In the PA as well as Hamastan, any Arab selling land to a Jew faces mandatory execution.
These tactics are all directed toward undermining Jewish sovereignty. Thus once the “occupation” is terminated, Jerusalem divided, and the ’67 borders in place, the final phase of the Palestinian offensive to dismantle Israel in stages would move toward the Arab “right of return,” designed to bring about the dissolution of the Jewish state.
The Palestinian entity would be a “pure” Islamic state, whereas Israel as a bi-national state inundated by Palestinian “refugees,” would soon be transformed into another Islamic domain.
Regrettably this is the true face of the PA to which Prime Minister Olmert is currently offering unprecedented concessions without reciprocity. If and when future negotiations do take place, Israel will already have theoretically forfeited everything.
There are also serious ramifications relating to this issue within Israel.
The radicalized Israeli Arabs have now partnered with Israeli post-Zionists in order to “dejudaize” and transform Israel from a Jewish state to a “state of all its citizens.” To her credit, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni responded by suggesting to Israeli Arabs that if they are unhappy with their status as a minority in a democratic Jewish state, an adjacent Palestinian state could constitute the answer to their national aspirations. She told them that, “Those supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state as a national solution to the Palestinians cannot have it both ways – to demand the establishment of such a state and at the same time act from within against the existence of the Jewish state.”
Prime Minister Olmert recently warned Israelis that unless a two state solution is achieved, Israel “would be finished.” Hopefully he was not hinting that he was contemplating abrogation of his vow not to negotiate with the Palestinians if they reject Israel as a Jewish state. Of course, in the light of his broken commitments and daily zig zags, it is difficult to give credence to anything our prime minister says.
However if Olmert reneges on this pledge, he would not only irreparably undermine the Zionist vision of a “Jewish homeland.” He would also pave the way for the Arab right of return. That could become a first step toward transforming into reality his prediction of “Israel being finished.”
The world must understand that we can move forward only if the Palestinians recognize that this tiny sliver of land is our Jewish homeland. If Palestinians are unwilling to reconcile themselves to accepting Jewish sovereignty in the region, there is nothing more to discuss and there must be no further concessions.
The writer is a former chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress and a veteran international Jewish leader.
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