by Khaled Abu Toameh, GateStone institute—
- The obsession with settlements is certain to divert attention from core issues, such as Palestinian recognition of a Jewish Israel. Many Palestinians continue to regard Israel as one big settlement that needs to be removed from the Middle East.
- Even those who say they have accepted the two-state solution are not prepared to recognize any Jewish link to or history in the land.
- In the view of Al-Husseini, Palestinians refuse to acknowledge a Jewish state because they believe this would grant legitimacy to “Jews’ rights to the land of Palestine” and undermine the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” for millions of refugees into Israel.
- Israeli Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by privileging the perceived interests of Palestinian Arabs, while Palestinian Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by denying any link between Jews and the land. This stance makes peace a non-starter.
Israel as a Jewish state remains anathema to the Palestinian community. This is a top-down attitude, communicated on a constant basis by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is based on the argument that such a move would mean giving up the “right of return” for millions of “refugees” into Israel. This refusal is also based on the continued denial of any historic Jewish connection to the land.
In recent weeks, the PA president has once again reiterated his strong opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is one of the main obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Settlement construction complaints are nothing more than a Palestinian Authority smokescreen.
There is much talk these days about the Palestinian Authority’s intention to ask the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution condemning Israel for construction in the settlements. It is not yet clear whether the PA will carry out its threat. What is clear, however, is that this obsession with the settlements is certain to divert attention from core issues, such as Palestinian recognition of a Jewish Israel. Many Palestinians continue to regard Israel as one big settlement that needs to be removed from the Middle East.
Why, in fact, do the Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state?
Abbas has consistently failed to state his reasons for his total rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. In January 2014, the PA president declared:
“The Palestinians won’t recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel and won’t accept it. The Israelis say that if we don’t recognize the Jewishness of Israel there would be no solution. And we say that we won’t recognize or accept the Jewishness of Israel and we have many reasons for this rejection.”
On another occasion that same year, Abbas stated: “No one can force us to recognize Israel as Jewish state. If they want, they can go to the UN and ask to change their name to whatever they want — even if they want to be called The Jewish Zionist State.” Again, Abbas failed to explain the vehement Palestinian opposition to this demand.
The Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has shed some light on the matter. “We have already recognized Israel’s existence on the 1948 borders of Occupied Palestine,” Erekat explained. He added that he made it clear to former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during a meeting in Munich that the Palestinians “won’t change their history and religion and culture by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.”
While Palestinian leaders have been rather reluctant to elaborate on the reasons behind their rejectionism, other Palestinians have been more generous about the issue.
One of these is Palestinian political scientist Dr. Saniyeh Al-Husseini, who recently published an article titled, “Why Palestinians Refuse to Accept the Jewishness of the State of Israel.” The article was reprinted by the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, WAFA — a definite sign that the Palestinian leadership endorses her views.
In her article, Al-Husseini points out that the U.S. supports the Israeli condition, which she described as a “crippling demand.”
The article warns that “accepting the Jewishness of Israel means relinquishing all the Palestinian rights to the Palestinian lands, including the lands that were occupied in 1967.” According to Al-Husseini, there are two main reasons that Palestinians are opposed to this demand. The first has to do with the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to their former villages and homes inside Israel; the second is related to the status of Israel’s Arab citizens.
Referring to the first of these, Al-Husseini writes:
“Palestinian acceptance of the Israeli narrative would deny any Palestinian right on the land of Palestine and give justification to Israel’s wars against the Palestinians. Palestinian recognition of the Jewishness of Israel means accepting the Israeli narrative regarding the Jews’ right to the land of Palestine and exempts Israel from bearing responsibility for the moral and legal consequences of all its crimes against the Palestinians.”
In the view of Al-Husseini, then, Palestinians refuse to acknowledge a Jewish state because they believe that this would grant legitimacy to “Jews’ rights to the land of Palestine” and undermine the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” for millions of refugees into Israel.
Let us take a moment to clarify this: the Palestinian Authority wants a Palestinian state next to Israel while at the same time flooding Israel with millions of refugees. That, of course, is something to which no Israeli government could ever agree. Even more crucial is the Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish right to the land. Such denial is a longstanding pillar of the official Palestinian narrative. Even those who say they have accepted the two-state solution are not prepared to recognize any Jewish link to or history in the land.
The second reason, that which concerns the Arab citizens of Israel, is similarly telling. According to Al-Husseini, Israel’s ultimate goal, as “betrayed” by this demand, is to rid itself of its Arab citizens.
There is indeed a betrayal going on, but it is not being perpetrated by Israel. First, by reprinting Al-Husseini’s article, the PA has “betrayed” the fact that it has appointed itself custodian of the Arab citizens of Israel.
As Israel is a democracy — unlike the dictatorial Palestinian regimes — Israel’s Arab citizens have their own leaders and representatives in Israel’s Knesset. The last thing they need is for the Palestinian Authority or Hamas or any other Palestinian faction to meddle in their internal affairs.
But the betrayal continues. The Arab citizens of Israel are represented by leaders, including some Knesset members, who are so preoccupied with the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that they have forgotten who their real constituents are.
Just consider MK Zouheir Bahloul, who spends valuable time re-defining the word “terrorist.” Bahloul, a member of the Labor Party, seems to be enjoying the public outcry he created recently when he declared that a Palestinian who tried to stab IDF soldiers in Hebron last month is not a terrorist.
It is as if Bahloul and the other Arab Knesset members have solved all the problems of the Arab community inside Israel and all that is left is to make sure that no one calls a Palestinian stabber a terrorist. Needless to say, this issue does not top the agenda of the Arab citizens of Israel.
The betrayal thus runs wide and deep. Israeli Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by privileging the perceived interests of Palestinian Arabs, while Palestinian Arab leaders are betraying their constituencies by continuing to deny any link between Jews and the land. This is a stance that makes peace a non-starter in the Middle East. When the international community is presented with settlement complaints and the like, it might wish to ponder these small but critical points.