Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Jewish State?

How far apart are the Israelis and Palestinians in their current peace negotiations? Consider just one issue. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said one result of any agreement must be Palestinian recognition of the Jewish State of Israel. This seems reasonable. If the goal of the talks is a two-state solution, one should expect both sides to acknowledge the existence of the other.

But today Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took issue with this assertion. "We're not talking about a Jewish state and we won't talk about one," Abbas said in an interview with the semi-official Al-Quds newspaper. "For us, there is the state of Israel and we won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state" (see http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=187417).

Abbas's reason for his position is that a Jewish state would strip
Israeli-Arabs of their rights and turn them into illegal citizens. But would it? I believe the answer is no for two reasons. First, Arab citizens within Israel proper today have rights as Israeli citizens--and have since 1948. Second, U.N. Resolution 181 (the original 1947 UN resolution to partition the land and establish the states of Israel and Palestine) addressed clearly addressed this issue. By the way, Resolution 181 was accepted by the Jewish population of the land but rejected by the Arabs who were opposed to any two-state solution at that time.

Here are some excerpts from that resolution:

Religious and minority rights. Freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, shall be ensured to all. No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants on the ground of race, religion, language or sex.

Citizenship. Palestinian citizens residing in Palestine outside the City of Jerusalem, as well as Arabs and Jews who, not holding Palestinian citizenship, reside in Palestine outside the City of Jerusalem shall, upon the recognition of independence, become citizens of the State in which they are resident and enjoy full civil and political rights. Persons over the age of eighteen years may opt, within one year from the date of recognition of independence of the State in which they reside, for citizenship of the other State, providing that no Arab residing in the area of the proposed Arab State shall have the right to opt for citizenship in the proposed Jewish State and no Jew residing in the proposed Jewish State shall have the right to opt for citizenship in the proposed Arab State. The exercise of this right of option will be taken to include the wives and children under eighteen years of age of persons so opting.
(To read UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in its entirety, go to: http://www.mideastweb.org/181.htm.)

The original UN declaration establishing a two-state solution specifically identified Israel as a Jewish State...and provided clear guidelines on the rights of the non-majority population within that state. Israel has largely followed these guidelines--from the use of Arabic on street signs to the freedom given to Muslims and Christians to worship without harassment.

Are the Palestinians willing to abide by the same rules? Abbas's statement today casts doubt on the sincerity of their commitment.

The prophet Amos made a wise observation, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3, NKJV).

If there is disagreement on such a foundational issue as allowing Israel to be a Jewish State, don't expect great progress.

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