Without Palestinian recognition of Jewish state, what’s the point of negotiations?
by Benny Levy
The commotion around the extended settlement freeze diverts attention away from the additional price Israel is apparently required to pay for the benefit package promised to Netanyahu: Renouncing the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state before entering talks. The prime minister, who presented this demand a few weeks ago, has gone silent as of late; yet without such initial recognition, it’s unclear what will be discussed in the talks.
Starting with discussion on borders and security arrangements, as the Palestinians and Americans demand, is akin to conducting negotiations where the sides are discussing the price, number of installments, their date etc., without first agreeing whether they are selling or leasing the asset. If it’s a sale, the seller will no longer have any rights for the asset. In a lease, the lessee is expected to, and entitled to, demand the asset again in the future.
This is the point of introductory clauses in contracts. There, the sides present their joint interests, which come before the negotiations. For example, as side A is interested in offering an apartment for rent, and side B is interested in renting an apartment, the sides agree to…(and here come the contract clauses to be decided on during negotiations.)
The introduction to the “dream agreement” with the Palestinians should say that as the sides are interested in ending the conflict, and as they view the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s state, and the future state to be established as the Palestinian people’s state, they agree to the following (borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, etc.) Yet the Palestinians say they will refuse to such introduction. Abbas and Erekat truly disparage such possibility, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, who seemingly presented a different position, has no authority anyway.
More demands in future
Does this mean there is no room for negotiations? Not necessarily. However, in the absence of such recognition, there is no guarantee that in the future the Palestinians won’t demand more rights in Israel. The conflict may be reignited, and this should be taken into account when crafting the details of the agreement.
Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, had it been offered openly to the world – to Israel, the Arab world, nations of the world, and international institutions – would have allowed Israel to show flexibility on the question of borders and assume risks on the security front. Alternately, should the Palestinians not recognize Israel as the Jewish state, this will necessitate wholly different agreements. Making the Palestinians’ intention clean is therefore a required element, rather than a precondition, for holding the negotiations.
Two main questions are being raised. First, why does Israel need its identity to be defined by an external element? The answer to this effort to play dumb is that this isn’t about Israel’s identity decided by the Palestinians, but rather, a clarification that when embarking on talks they agree that “two states for two peoples” means Israel to the Jews and Palestine to the Palestinians. This is a highly important element in drafting the clauses of the agreement. It also affects the refugee issues and presents the hope that should an agreement be reached, it would put an end to the conflict.
And the second question – why wasn’t such recognition demanded in the past from Egypt and Jordan – is also an effort to play dumb. The Jordanians and Egyptians did not demand Israel’s territories and did not educate their sons on the ethos of “the key to our old house in Jaffa.” The absence of an explicit recognition by Jordan and Egypt of Israel as the Jewish State did not constitute an implied rejection, as exists in the Palestinian positions. Moreover, Egypt and Jordan did not engage in negotiations that were all about vagueness, doublespeak, and untruth.
Embarking on negotiations before first agreeing what the sides’ intentions are will amount to a repeat of the Oslo agreement, whose result was – in the words of Yitzhak Rabin, may he rest in peace – “more holes than cheese.”
Benny Levy is the founder of the Shiva non-profit organization dedicated to imparting the Zionist idea
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -