Published in Palm Beach Post on March 24, 2014
West Palm Beach
March 17, 2014
The promotion of a Jewish state promotes the creation of a parallel Islamic Palestinian state. A region obsessed with political Islam on one side and by political Judaism on the other has no future.
Israel insists on inserting a provocative pre-condition in the ongoing peace talks: Palestinian recognition of Israel as the “Jewish state.” Over the past eight months US Secretary of State John Kerry has worked hard to bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table. So far no progress is in evidence.
Israel is no longer immune to domestic reactionary thinking; Zionist ideology has shifted to the right. There are many reasons for this shift. Two factors stand out. Russian-born immigrants and the Orthodox community play a larger role in current Israeli politics. The size and influence of these two communities have grown. The second factor is the widening instability in Arab society; Israel is stronger militarily, and therefore feels entitled to new demands at the negotiating table.
Discouraged by lack of movement in the peace talks, Kerry has drafted a framework of suggestions for a future phase of negotiations. Here are some of Kerry’s expected ideas that have come to light.
In a two-state solution Palestine and Israel would compromise on decisive issues. The Palestinian refugees would receive financial compensation and could return only to the West Bank and Gaza, foreseen as the new Palestinian state. Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders but retain about 80 % of the existing settlements. Land swaps between the two states would preserve the proportion of Palestinian land ownership to 22% of Historic Palestine (or Eretz Israel). Part of East Jerusalem would be shared. Elaborate military measures would ensure Israel’s security on Jordan’s border and in the wider region. Palestine would be demilitarized. And one more expected concession: the Palestinian Authority would be asked to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This new Israeli demand was not part of Oslo or Camp David accords.
Kerry’s framework will be announced soon. The framework addresses the enormous humanitarian and political problems of the occupation and security issues. In adding the provocative demand for Arab recognition of Israel as the Jewish state Kerry has unintentionally overloaded the agenda of peace making.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is aware that Arab leaders, facing a rising tide of Islamic revolts, are not in a position to recognize the Zionist state as a Jewish state. Is the Prime Minister making an unreasonable request to delay discussions on ending the occupation?
The Jewish state identity is provocative even within the Jewish world. Not all of Israel’s leaders champion the idea of the Jewish state and its inherent implications on minority rights. Many in Israel and its Diaspora do not wish to see a “secular and democratic” state transform to a faith-based entity. Israel has a fragile demographic makeup - a secular majority and a conservative religious minority that holds disproportionate political power.
Israel is not totally Jewish. Every fourth Israeli is non-Jewish. Twenty percent of the population of Israel is of Palestinian origin. These Palestinian are natives of former Palestine. These Palestinians, who currently receive less than a full share of their rights and privileges, are citizens of Israel. They are labeled “Israeli Arabs.” Israeli Arabs will feel even more alien and disadvantaged if they live in a country designated Jewish.
Israel’s leadership argues that the Jewish state will retain its democratic nature and continue to respect the rights of its minorities. This sounds sensible, but for the five million Arabs who now live in Israeli controlled areas, and for the 300 million Arabs who live in the regional neighborhood, a Jewish state appears sectarian and provocative.
A peace process leading nowhere is counterproductive. If Israel is unwilling to forge peace with the Arab world today it should declare the peace process dead. To continue to expand settlements, tighten civil rights on its Arab minorities and to ask the Palestinian Authority to bless a Jewish state does not serve any side of this conflict.
The region drifts to a one-state scenario, not a one-state solution. To assume that Kerry’s framework is capable of radically changing the prospects of peace is to ignore the disheartening outcome of similar initiatives of the past.