Of the many subjects that have been discussed during the last few days, one stands out: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that the Palestinians have consistently refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state – not just a state, but a Jewish state. This is an extremely touchy subject because it is linked to the Palestinians’ “right of return” of the descendants of their refugees to Israel, rather than to the future Palestinian state. If the Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, it is argued, they could not very well expect their refugees to return there.
In an attempt to clarify this matter, an article appeared in Ha’Aretz by Akiva Eldar (September 26), which pointed out that Mahmoud Abbas’s application for Palestinian statehood was based on U.N. Resolution 181 of 1947, providing for the creation of an Arab state alongside Israel, as well as on the 1988 Palestinian declaration of independence, which recognized U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and referred to Israel as a Jewish state.
Last Sunday (February 13), the New York Times Magazine carried a story by Barnard Avisha with the title “A Plan for Peace that Still Could Be.” It demonstrated that the proposal for the agreement Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority negotiated in 2007 and 2008, which covered almost all the contentious issues, should be implemented now.
This is the final paragraph:
“Abbas, for his part, still leads the P.L.O. and governs the West Bank. Hamas controls Gaza but has committed to honoring any deal Abbas negotiated for the 1967 borders as long as its terms would be submitted to a referendum, which Abbas has solemnly promised to call.
“‘There is a danger that the events in Egypt will mislead some to lose hope in peace,’ Olmert told me pointedly in an e-mail. ‘I think the opposite, that there can be another way to challenge the events near us. This is the time to move forward, fast, take my peace initiative with the Palestinians and make a deal. This will be my advice to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Don’t wait. Move, lead and make history. This is the time. There will not be a better one.”
The current Economist (February 10) has an editorial with the title “A Marriage of Inconvenience,” which traces the history of U.S.-Israeli relations.
These are the final paragraphs:
“Against this backdrop, with a Republican House and a presidential election less than two years away, Israeli fears of abandonment look unwarranted. America will be faithful. But it will have to pay a higher price for its fidelity in an Arab world whose leaders no longer dare to ignore the preferences of their people. The best way to escape this trap would be for America to win the Palestinians their state. In that event, Arabs in general might be willing to make a people’s peace with Israel. But it was hard enough to negotiate a compromise when the autocrats were in charge. Finding one the masses accept will be harder still.”