The US State Department on Tuesday stated that the Obama Administration backs Israel’s insistence that it be recognized as the national homeland of the Jewish people as a key component to peace with the Palestinians.
“We recognize the special nature of the Israeli state,” said State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley. “It is a state for the Jewish people.”
But getting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to make the same concession has proved impossible. Abbas has repeatedly stated that Israel can call itself whatever it wants, but that the Palestinians and the wider Arab world will never recognize its right to exist as “the Jewish state.”
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at the Knesset that he was willing to again freeze Jewish building in Judea and Samaria - the areas claimed by the Palestinians for their future state - in exchange for a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the “national home for the Jewish people.”
Abbas’ chief spokesman, Saeb Erekat, immediately shot down the idea.
“We forcefully reject all these Israeli games,” Erekat told reporters. “The racist demands of Netanyahu cannot be tied to the request to cease building in the settlements for the purpose of establishing a state.”
The exchange and the US response to it was actually something of a diplomatic victory for Netanyahu, who managed to again identify publicly Palestinian intransigence as the main obstacle to peace. For the time being at least, Netanyahu and Israel will appear in the eyes of the world justified in allowing the resumption of Jewish building.
But the international community will inevitably shift gears the moment the Palestinians contrive even the most dubious of claims against Israel, as history has shown. While Crowley and the US seems to have come down on Israel’s side in this instance, they still fail to put two and two together, and to realize that the hardline Palestinian position on this issue is evidence that the Arabs are not looking for a long-term, durable peace with Israel.
But most Israelis are not fooled.
Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon said, “There is no chance in the coming years for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.”
Yaalon noted that these recent developments show that “in the eyes of the Palestinians, the occupation started in 1948 and not in 1967 [when Israel liberated Judea and Samaria - the so-called West Bank].”
Yaalon explained that by refusing to recognize Israel as the Jewish state, Abbas is basically saying that all of the land west of the Jordan River is “Palestine,” and that Israel is being permitted to exist on it for the time being, but won’t be afforded the “right” to exist on it.
“They have no interest in having Israel as a neighboring state,” he concluded.