PA Refuses to Recognize Israel's Jewishness
The construction freeze is taking center stage in the Israel-PA talks, but what about the PA's refusal to agree that Israel remain a Jewish state?
Ayalon explained afterwards: “If the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about… If their intention at the end of the process is to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Sderot a week ago, the issue is not merely a matter of semantics. "I'm not talking about a name," Netanyahu said. "I'm talking about essence.”
This is because the question of whether Israel is a “Jewish” state or not will ultimately decide whether Israel is morally bound to accept the Arab demand for the so-called “right of return” – meaning the flooding of Israel with hundreds of thousands of Arabs that could double the Israeli-Arab population and turn the country into a bi-national state.
If the Arabs recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which they have never done, this will enable Israel to reject the “right of return” – a position that has been in near-absolute Israeli consensus for generations.
Left-Wing Waffling on Right of Return
Of late, however, even that has begun to change. Left-wing commentator Akiva Eldar writes in Haaretz this week that Netanyahu's demand that the PA must first recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people is nothing less than a “bombshell.”
Israel’s insistence on being considered a Jewish state is even less understood internationally. An article in Great Britain’s Guardian entitled “Israel's unreasonable demand” says that for Israel to be a Jewish state clashes with its claim that it is democratic.
“Moreover,” the article continues, “by forcing the Palestinian Authority to recognize the state's ‘Jewishness,’ Israel is obliging the Palestinians to recognize a system in which Israel's Arab citizens are second class.”
Balfour Declaration, San Remo: Israel to be "Jewish National Home"
The Balfour Declaration of 1917, the modern international legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel, makes it clear that Israel is to be a national home for the Jewish people. The declaration also states that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” – but nothing about any “national” rights of said communities.
Less than three years later, at the San Remo Conference, the three leading post-World War One European powers (Great Britain, France and Italy) and Japan agreed that the Balfour Declaration must be implemented, and once again called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” This call, too, said that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” again saying nothing about “national” rights.