Is Israel a Jewish State? The question is putting secular-Zionists to the test.

Israeli-Arab MK Ahmed Tibi termed the Israeli demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish State as "chutzpah" (unmitigated nerve).

The latest war of words over the cultural-ethnic nature of the State of Israel began when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded that the Palestinian Authority's Annapolis negotiating team recognize Israel as a Jewish country.  This is the the axiomatic raison d'etre of the State of Israel stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence. 

However, PA negotiators refused to recognize this, explaining that they need not recognize anything more than Israel's political definition as a country.  "I know why you want us to say it's purely Jewish," PA negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo said, "in order to make sure there is no room for any refugees. Why should I do that?"

In this, Israelis would agree with him: The demand for Arab recognition as a Jewish state is in order to protect itself from a deluge of Arab "refugees" and their descendants, which would endanger Israel's existence as a Jewish homeland.  Even Israel's political left agrees that the PA's demand to admit these Arabs into its borders is untenable.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni then fired the next volley, saying at a Sunday afternoon press conference, "It must be clear that Israel is a national home for the Jewish People, and that it is a democratic, Jewish state.  Every person elected to the Knesset must accept these principles."

Livni further said, "The Palestinian state to be established will not be a solution just for the Palestinians who live in Judea and Samaria.  It is designed to provide a comprehensive national solution - for those living in Judea and Samaria, and the refugees camps, and even for the [Arab] citizens of Israel."

Livni thus seemingly reiterated the straightforward situation that if a new state is to be formed west of the Jordan River exclusively for Arabs, then the other state that already exists there - Israel - could arguably be construed as exclusively for Jews.

However, Arab and left-wing MKs rose up in opposition.  "Minister Livni's words sounds as if they came from the mouth of Avigdor Lieberman," said Labor MK Ophir Pines - a grave insult by left-wing standards.  Lieberman heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, proposes trading Arab-populated areas for parts of Judea and Samaria, and often accuses Arab MKs of working with the enemy.  He once said that a particular Arab MK was "an ally of terrorists; in any other country, they would have you tried before a military court for treason."

MK Pines called on Livni to retract her words, saying, "The solution for the Arab refugees is certainly a Palestinian state, but it is not a solution for the Arabs of Israel. I intend to raise the matter for an urgent debate in the Knesset this week."

Arab MK Muhammed Barakeh said, "This is an escalation of the chutzpah of Livni and her government.  The Palestinian Arabs are living in their homeland; they never immigrated anywhere, but rather Israel immigrated to them."

In fact, however, numerous testimonies from the 1800's prove that the number of Arabs living in the Land of Israel was very low.  The American writer Mark Twain, for instance, who visited the Holy Land in 1867, wrote about the Jezreel Valley, "There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent - not for 30 miles in either direction.  There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation... To find solitude, come to Galilee for that... these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness... We reached Tabor safely... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Nazareth [today a teeming Israeli-Arab city of 65,000 people - ed.] is forlorn... Jericho the accursed lies a moldering ruin today..."

Col. C. R. Conder, in his book entitled Heth and Moab, pronounced the Palestine of the 1880's a "ruined land," and "as far as the Arab race is concerned, it appears to be decreasing rather than otherwise."  He had written before that "the Peasantry who are the backbone of the population [of Palestine] have diminished most sadly in numbers and wealth."  Even in 1895, French writer Pierre Loti wrote, "I traveled through sad Galilee in the spring, and I found it silent."  [Quotes from Joan Peters' book From Time Immemorial, pages 159-161]

Arab MK Ahmed Tibi said about the demand to recognize Israel as Jewish, "This is an incredulous demand rooted in inter-party rivalry... or an evil and brazen demand.  Her grave remarks reveal her extremist  face. She is preparing the way for the expulsion of as many Arab citizens as possible, in order to keep Israel Jewish and with out Arabs... These dangerous remarks are reminiscent of Lieberman and [Rabbi Meir] Kahane... The Arabs were here before Mrs. Livni and will remain here after her."

Nationalist MK Aryeh Eldad also had criticism of Livni: "The Palestinians already have a state in Jordan, where 70% of the inhabitants are Palestinian.  Livni wants to give yet another state to the Palestinians, thinking that the Arabs of Israel will suffice with that.  But the fact is that whoever gives up Judea and Samaria will not be able stop [giving up] even the Galilee and the Negev."