The Israeli Demand that Palestinians Accept Israel as a Jewish State

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Why the Deal-Maker for Israel is the Deal-Breaker for the Palestinians – and Vice Versa

Part 1 Reut and wrong

Gidi Grinstein is founder and CEO of the Re’ut Institute of Tel Aviv. The great thing about his article Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People / Palestine as the Nation State of the Palestinian People (Re’ut-Institute website), is that it takes as its subject the crucial issue at the heart of the Israeli conflict with the Arabs.

The not-so-great-thing is that it does this with a shallow analysis that trivializes and distorts a serious matter.

The issue is the Israeli requirement that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People. Prime Minister Netanyahu has regularly made this the fundamental building block of any 2-State Solution. For example:

There will be no Palestinian state before the state of Israel is recognized as the Jewish people’s state, and there will be no Palestinian state before the Palestinians declare an end to the conflict.
(Y.net.com 02/12/2012)

Gidi Grinstein finds that this Israeli demand is:

a just one, yet non-essential, and therefore unnecessary.

Unfortunately, he supports this view with some silly arguments. Yet, Gidi Grinstein is both smart and substantial. Therefore, his use of explanations that trivialize the issue is worrying. For example, he says this:

Palestinian recognition of Israel’s identity is immaterial to Israel’s future character: Israel’s Jewishness stems from its democracy, with 80% of its population being Jewish.

The striking thing about this passage is not that it is true but that it is irrelevant to the matter at hand. It is irrelevant because neither PM Netanyahu nor anyone else is suggesting or proposing that Israel’s Jewish character depends in some way on Palestinian recognition. No-one is making the ridiculous claim that Israel’s Jewish identity would in any way stem from a Palestinian hechsher.

As well as being irrelevant, this view misleads by drawing attention away from the real issue. He continues:

But, if demographics change and Jews become a 60-40 majority or even a 40-60 minority, Abbas’ recognition will mean very little under the pressures of democracy and international law. In other words, it is far more important to deal with the demographic condition than with declaratory legal statements.

This characterization that the required Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state can be reduced to no more than a declaratory legalistic statement, is to make light of the issue. Interestingly, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA President-for-life appointed by the PLO, also has a habit of dumbing-down its importance:

What is the ‘Jewish state’? We call it the ‘State of Israel’. You can call yourselves whatever you want, but I will not accept it.
(Palestinian TV 27 April 2009, Palwatch.org)

With his tongue-in-cheek pretense that the concern is merely the name of Israel, Abbas shifts attention from the substantive issue. The difference is that when he resorts to these dismissive tactics he does so to demonstrate his scorn for Israel.

In reality, he understands that Palestinian-Arab rejection or acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state involves far more than mere declaratory legalistic rhetoric. In fact, it is the core issue of the conflict – hence his constant repetition of the Palestinian rejection (see Abbas’ Cairo Interview).

Apologetics and distortion

By contrast, the head of the Re’ut Institute is supposed to be beyond this. Yet he pursues his misdirection with the statement:

The Palestinians have already recognized Israel more than once.

And on this basis, he recommends:

Israel should view its recognition by the Palestinians as a ‘done deal’.

This is an astonishing piece of advice and doubly misleading. In the first place, it is not a done deal. No Palestinian party, faction, militia or leader has expressed support for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Secondly, by replacing a matter of substance, the issue of acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, with the unremarkable fact of Palestinian recognition of the obvious reality of Israel’s existence, Gidi Grinstein again obscures the issue.

Helpfully, the PLO Ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq has already explained the distinction:

There are no two Palestinians who disagree over the fact that Israel exists, and recognition of it is stating the obvious, but recognition of its right to exist is something else.

To emphasize this difference between recognition of the fact of Israel’s existence and Palestinian refusal to accept that existence, he continued:

They (the Israelis, JD) have a common mistake, or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist.
They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist.
(PA Daily Al-Hayet Al-Jadida 26 Nov 2011, Palwatch.org)

A helping hand from Ben-Gurion?

Unfortunately, Gidi Grinstein’s dumbing-down efforts are more than matched by his ludicrous claim that the demand for Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state is non-Zionist. This amazing idea is said to be because:

Zionism thrived when it pursued its own self-interest without seeking the consent, approval and recognition of Arabs.
He continues:

David Ben-Gurion, for example, always focused on the realization of the right of the Jewish People to self-determination, which is inalienable and therefore cannot be conditioned on external consent.

Again, what is its relevance to the issue at hand? Who is asking the Palestinians, or anyone else, for external consent or confirmation of Israel’s existence in any way?

By means of these superficial formulations, Gidi Grinstein trivializes the issue and makes it seem as if there is a demand that Israel somehow needs Palestinian approval of its existence and its Jewishness. This is not the case and this misrepresentation evades the real issue and replaces it with a caricature.

In reality, the point at issue is simple and easily understood.

The issue plainly stated

The real issue is that Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is required to assure Israelis that any Palestinian state alongside Israel will bring an end to the conflict rather than its extension.

This is to allay Israeli fears that a Palestinian state will provide a base for whoever rules it, probably in conjunction with others, for use as a springboard for further attempts to destroy Israel. Therefore, assurance is needed that the agreement for a 2-State Solution really will be an exchange of land-for-peace rather than an exchange of land for more rockets, more tunnels, more terror and more war.

With a border five times longer than that of Gaza, the West Bank has an area fifteen time greater. Unlike Gaza, its heights are adjacent to and overlook the main population and economic centers of Israel. With major road and rail routes also alongside and Ben Gurion airport nearby, this would offer a hostile Palestinian state an abundance of easy targets and present Israel with severe defensive difficulties.

Firstly, the longer border will be far more difficult to control. Secondly, the closer proximity and greater concentration of population and business targets will be much harder to defend. Thirdly, in contrast to the area around Gaza, this concentration allows practically no depth for military maneuvering.

This extreme vulnerability means that Israel needs an enormous amount of convincing and reassurance that a 2-State agreement will be safe. Consequently, if the 2-State Solution is to be the answer that its advocates claim, the issue of Palestinian/Arab acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state with a legitimate right to exist is an issue that absolutely must be settled if the conflict is to be truly over.

The asymmetrical ‘land for peace’ exchange

Israeli fears are reinforced by an inherent imbalance in the land-for-peace formula. This is because the proposal is not in reality an exchange of land for peace but essentially an exchange of land for a promise of peace.

With this inbuilt asymmetry, Israel gives up the concrete asset of land in exchange for nothing stronger than a promise rather than for any reciprocal concrete asset. In other words, the exchange involves a fundamental and high-risk deed on the part of Israel for an imprecise and unreliable promise on the part of the Palestinians. In a future emergency, the Israeli surrender could prove very difficult to reverse. By contrast, it would be relatively easy for the Palestinians to renege on their promise of peace.

Supporters of a Palestinian state tend to ignore these perils for Israel and instead uncritically assume or hope for moderation and reliability from the PA. Unfortunately, the PA is neither moderate nor reliable. Instead, it is a typically corrupt, violent and unstable Arab tyranny. Its chief expertise has been the obliteration of democracy, the repression of its own people and the enrichment of an elite on the back of international donations.

Therefore, the crucial question becomes one of the trustworthiness, stability and permanence of any Arab/Palestinian promise and the strength of arrangements to enforce it.

All this emphasizes that Palestinian/Arab acceptance of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is needed for sound practical reasons. It is needed in order to pre-empt, minimize, control or eliminate the potential dangers involved in attempting to reach a peace agreement that accepts a Palestinian state. Naturally, a mere declaratory legal statement would be insufficient to inspire the required confidence.

To summarize, it is one thing to recognize the existence of Israel because its existence is an unavoidable and obvious fact, yet at the same time to oppose its existence by working to eliminate it. It is another thing to accept that its existence is the legitimate Jewish nation-state and to abandon the aim of destroying it.

In other words, in contrast to Gidi Grinstein’s interpretation, this does not mean that there is an Israeli requirement that Palestinians, Arabs or anyone else provide external confirmation of its Jewishness. Nor is there a demand for Arab or Palestinian approval of Israel’s existence. Instead, there is an entirely justified demand for assurance that a peace deal means Arab/Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and that this really is an end to all threats to its existence as a Jewish state.

How difficult is this to understand?

The options this presents to Israel are simple. With Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, it would at last be believable that a Palestinian state and a Jewish state would be able to live alongside one another peacefully.

By contrast, without this acceptance, Israel suspects that a Palestinian state will not bring peace. Instead, it will introduce a more deadly phase of the conflict. In Israel, this is known as the first stage of Yassir Arafat’s 2-Stage Solution to eliminate Israel – not a bright new beginning in any sense but merely a continuation of old Arab efforts to eliminate Israel. This is why Israel needs powerful assurances.

The problem is that these assurances are entirely absent.

Part 2 The Palestinian declaration of more war

A mass of indications show that the real situation is even worse and that Israeli misgivings are solidly based. For example, not only the Palestinians but also the wider Arab world consistently refuses to accept Israel as a Jewish state. This can be seen yet again by recent declarations to that effect from the Arab League in March and November 2014 (see Abbas‘ Cairo Interview).

This determination and persistence to leave the status and character of Israel both unresolved and open to dispute indicates a determined purpose. Naturally, the fear is that the purpose is the continuation of the struggle against Israel. In other words, the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel would indeed be the deadly first stage of the 2-Stage solution.

With or without the open support of the government of a new Palestinian state, the second stage of the 2-Stage Solution will be launched from its territory by Jihadist terrorists against nearby Israeli population concentrations. These will be practically impossible to stop (see The Fantasy of a Demilitarized Palestinian State). This danger to Israel would be compounded if, or more probably when, Hamas or other Jihadists were to topple the PA from power on the West Bank as in Gaza.

The parallel strategy of the refugees

A parallel Palestinian/Arab strategy to undermine Israel is the openly declared and constantly repeated Palestinian aim of securing the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. From the wars of 1948-9 and 1967, these originally amounted to an estimated 720,000.
However, among all the world’s refugees Palestinians are uniquely defined to include not only the original refugees but also successive generations even when citizens of other states. This is testament to the strength and persistence of the 56 Muslim states at the United Nations that together with ‘Palestine’ constitute themselves as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – the second largest international body on earth after the UN itself.

The majority of the original refugees are no longer living. Yet due to this unique definition, their number has grown by fantastic proportions. There are now approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency on the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In addition, large numbers live elsewhere in the Arab world, Europe and North and South America.

For all the Palestinian factions, the fictitious ‘right of return’ of these fictitious refugees is declared an inalienable right and sacred duty. Further, the refugees will not be accepted as citizens of a new West Bank Palestinian state. Instead, the demand is that they must be returned to the state of Israel where such numbers would pose an obvious threat.

As Abbas put it in his recent Cairo interview referred to above:

There are six million refugees who wish to return, and by the way, I am one of them.
(Egyptian Daily Akhbar Al-Yawm, 30 Nov 2014, MEMRI Special Dispatch 5898)

The mismatch between presentation and reality

In confirmation of Israeli suspicions, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, the insistence on the return of the so-called refugees and a claim to areas crucial to Israel’s ability to defend its citizens are declarations that the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel will not end the conflict. Leading Palestinian spokesmen confirm this. For example, Abdullah Abdullah, PLO Ambassador to Lebanon, had this to say:

When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not the solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game.
(Beirut Daily Star, 15 Sept 2011)

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, his colleague and Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki went further:

When we say that a settlement should be based on these borders (04 June 1967), President (Abbas) understands, we understand, and everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go.

If Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers, and dismantles the wall – what will become of Israel? It will come to an end.

If one says that one wants to wipe Israel out … it’s not policy to say so. Don’t say these things to the world. Keep them to yourself.
(Al-Jazeera 23 Sept 2011, MEMRITV Clip #3130)

Other indicators point in this same direction. For example, Palestinian TV is full of images showing all Israel as Arab Palestine. Anti-Israel hatred and anti-Semitism dominate Palestinian political discourse, as well as the mosques, the education system and the media. Claims to the ’48 territories’, the land ‘from the river to the sea’, the cities of Akko, Haifa, Ashkelon, Eilat, and so on, are standard and incessant.

Further, it is PA policy and practice to pay salaries to Palestinians in Israeli prisons for deliberate and gruesome murders and attempted murders of innocents solely on the grounds of their Jewishness. Public praise for the ‘heroism’ of the prisoners is completely normal.

Likewise, the glorification of ‘martyrs’ killed while on operations against the ‘Zionist entity’ and the naming of schools, streets, football teams, and public squares after them is common.

All these actions and declarations are routine. Yet they are almost totally ignored by the mainstream western mass media. Given its disapproval of Israel, it might be thought that the media would bombard us with a wealth of material showing the goodwill and benign intentions of the Palestinian or Arab world towards Israel and Jews – or if not a wealth of material at least some material.

The snag is that this would be far too difficult. Palestinian and Arab messages are overwhelmingly filled with hate and murderous hostility. Nor is there evidence of debate within the Palestinian/Arab world about even the possibility of a ‘historical compromise’ with Israel.

Normally, such a mismatch between how things are supposed to be and how they really are would generate at least some self-questioning. This would run counter to the Israel-is-to-blame discourse that dominates the media. As a result, the disgraceful reality is that the words, actions and policies of the PA are seldom scrutinized and these matters are typically ignored. But they cannot be ignored by Israel.

The real reason why the Palestinians refuse negotiations

Firstly, the Palestinians often state that their refusal to negotiate is due to the continued building of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. This has been taken-up by the international mass media and repeated ad-nauseum as the accepted reason to blame Israel for the absence of negotiations.

A brief reflection shows it to be a trumped-up excuse. By backing out of negotiations, ostensibly on these grounds, the Palestinians are effectively handing a veto to Israel. That is, if it were true that Israel did not want an agreement, all it need do is to announce some new construction in the knowledge that the Palestinians would immediately pull out of negotiations to leave the Palestinians empty handed.
King Hussein drew attention to this many years ago. Others have also pointed out that without this stance the Palestinians could have ended settlement construction and established their own state years ago.

In other words, if the Palestinians themselves had been sincere and serious about an agreement with Israel they would have engaged in negotiations to reach a 2-State Solution as early and as fast as possible. This would have secured the dismantling of some settlements and would certainly have ended future settlement building. Currently, with the friendliest President of the United States ever to the Palestinian cause, they could well have established a state – if that is really what they wanted.

Therefore, unless the Palestinians are considered to be collectively stupid, there must be a far bigger reason for this refusal to negotiate. If this is not because they refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state, what is it?

Secondly, another tack used by the Palestinians to justify their rejection of negotiations has been to claim that the desire for an agreement proclaimed by Prime Minister Netanyahu is merely a pretense; that he does not genuinely believe in the 2-State Solution.

If Netanyahu were indeed engaged in diplomatic bluffing in this way, it would be very simple to test. All Abbas, the Palestinian leadership, and the Arab League need do is call the bluff by the simple method of accepting Israel as a Jewish state – and then by appealing over the head of Netanyahu directly to the Israeli public if necessary. This would gain Abbas access to the bimah in the Knesset in about 5 minutes flat (see Abbas Speaks to the Knesset).

But Abbas hasn’t and he won’t; nor will his vast hinterland of ‘support’ in the Arab world. This was demonstrated yet again by the aforementioned unanimous decisions of the Arab League in March and November 2014 in which this most basic condition for a successful, end-of-conflict, 2-State Solution was again rejected.

Their failure to challenge Netanyahu’s supposed bluff reveals the chief reason for the Palestinian refusal to negotiate: the knowledge that the issue of acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state will be at the heart of any agreement for two states. Negotiations with this as a central feature would thus risk exposing Palestinian rejectionism and blow the cover for their diplomatic efforts to isolate Israel. It would also embarrass those states who support Palestinian statehood, many of which prefer to ignore such matters – at least, not to know them publicly.

As a result, Netanyahu’s repeated calls for mutual acceptance has been met by a brick wall of evasions, distortions and continued rejection of negotiations. From the Palestinians, who do not intend to reach a final agreement based on 2-states for 2-peoples, this is not a surprise. But it should thoroughly alarm those who perpetually anticipate such an agreement and claim that this is what the Palestinians want.

Abbas’ dishonesty

In a further attempt to avoid the issue, Abbas maintains that the demand for the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state is a brand new obstacle. It is unfair, he says, as it was never demanded of Jordan or Egypt when they agreed peace treaties with Israel. But the clear difference is that unlike the Palestinians, the Jordanians and Egyptians terminated all claims to Israeli territory.

In any case, Abbas’ assertion that this is a new issue is entirely dishonest. It was the conflict with Arabs before the birth of Israel that produced the famous UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 1947. This suggested without ambiguity that a Jewish state and an Arab state should be established. The Jews accepted the proposal and the Arabs totally rejected it.

It is true that the Oslo accords of 1993 and 1995 made no mention of the acceptance of the Jewish state. This was because they also made no mention to a 2-State Solution – as this would have pre-empted final status negotiations and a permanent status agreement.

However, this was not the case during the more recent period of negotiations. Both the Clinton Parameters of 2000 and the Mitchell Plan of 2001 recommended a Palestinian state. This became a set proposal in the US State Department Document, A Performance-Based Road Map to a Permanent Two State Solution of 2003. In its response to this, Israel published 14 reservations. The sixth of these clearly stated that the road map would need to include declarations to confirm:

Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and a waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the state of Israel.
(27 May 2003, Haaretz.com)

Subsequently, the question of accepting Israel as a Jewish state was part of the Olmert-Livni-Abbas negotiations of 2007-8. Naturally, Abbas knows all this.

More false claims

Others, such as Gidi Grinstein, have claimed that the Palestinians have already recognized Israel as a Jewish state when Yassir Arafat signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995. But if this were true, why is it so difficult to explicitly ‘reaffirm’ this supposed acceptance in order to reassure the nervous Israelis? Yet the Palestinians flatly refuse.

Furthermore, this refusal is reinforced by a constant flood of spurious ‘political lies’ that deny any historic Jewish connection to the land. The particular form this takes to delegitimize Israel is the claim that Jews are a religion only and have no characteristics of a national group.

Therefore, in this view, they are not considered entitled to self-determination with a state of their own – hence reciprocal recognition is denied.

Obviously, these attitudes cut across the principles underpinning the Oslo Accords of reciprocal recognition for a lasting solution. They are also at odds with the claim that they have already accepted Israel as a Jewish state. It would be amazing if Gidi Grinstein were unaware of all this. In any event, his claim is nonsense and only serves to aid the duplicity of the Palestinian leadership.

Another indication of this duplicity is that the Palestinians agreed to alter the Palestinian National Charter (1968), as required by Oslo II in 1995. This would have removed the passages aimed at the destruction of the state whose existence they had just acknowledged. Yet to date, almost 20 years later, the Charter remains unaltered. It can be seen unrevised and without correction, disclaimer or qualifying comment on the website of the State of Palestine Permanent Observer Mission to the UN from which these selections were taken:

Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.
Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.

Article 15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.

Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time,

Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate, and everything that has been based on them, are deemed null and void.

Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality.
(http://www.un.int/wcm/content/site/palestine/pid/12362)

The deal-maker is the deal-breaker

The unmistakable reason behind the resistance to any acceptance of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state is that all of Israel is considered part of the Arab nation. As a result, the opportunity the Palestinian/Arabs want is the opportunity to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. In this context, anything that they see as moving this agenda forward is acceptable. Conversely, anything that holds it back is rejected.

Abba Eban’s famous remark in 1973, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” misunderstands this. The fact is that the opportunities the Palestinians are said to have missed are not the opportunities they want. When they reject the means to get a state alongside Israel at every opportunity, it means they cannot be so desperate for a state as often claimed. It also means that the situation cannot be so ‘untenable’ as many commentators claim.

Yet according to advocates of the 2-State Solution, if there is to be a win-win solution this should not be the case. The inevitable conclusion is that the deal-maker for Israel, the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, is unacceptable to the Palestinians. For them it is the deal-breaker.

Part 3 Conflicting conflict-resolution solutions

Consequently, the core issue of the conflict becomes one of how or if this can be overcome. In common ‘western’ usage, conflict resolution means an agreement reached by compromise that gives each side something but not necessarily all of what it wants. Such a solution is supposed to contain enough for mutual acceptability. Both sides accept that the deal may not be ideal, but the gains of a compromise agreement are greater than pursuing the conflict by other means.

This is commonly known as a win-win solution. In this sense, the 2-State Solution stands as the only win-win solution in town. However, the snag is that the word ‘solution’ can and is used in an entirely different sense. In this alternative sense, a zero-sum solution is where the winner-takes-all. In this meaning, there is no getting-to-yes by means of a negotiation embodying give-and-take compromise.

For example, the solution to the conflict between the Nazi domination of Europe and a Europe free of Nazi domination was achieved on a zero-sum basis with the destruction of the Nazis as an effective force. Negotiation, compromise and diplomacy all failed. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what a win-win compromise solution with the Nazis could possibly have looked like.

To put it more starkly, the nature of the conflict meant that a win-win solution was scarcely conceivable. Even if such a scheme had somehow been implemented, it would have been both dangerous and unstable. It would have been far from a genuine solution in the lasting and mutually acceptable sense of the win-win concept.

To put it another way, what this means is that not all differences and conflicts can be solved on a win-win basis. Therefore, it is crucial to identify the type of conflict in order to identify the type of solution. Is the Arab-Israeli conflict a win-win type or not? Advocates of the 2-State Solution think it is. In fact, according to many of its advocates, the solution is so obvious that ‘everyone knows’ what it is in advance of an agreement.

No Palestinian/Arab attempts to assure Israel

But the refusal of the Palestinians and the Arab world to accept Israel as Jewish state, to abandon the lethal demand for the return of the fictitious refugees to Israel or to accept anything less than the misnamed pre-67 ‘borders’ (with possible minor land swaps) provides no assurance whatever for Israel.

It demonstrates instead that the general western assumption that the win-win method of conflict resolution is the route to a lasting agreement is not the way the Palestinians see it. Unfortunately, win-win advocates are so convinced that the Palestinians want and deserve a state of their own that they misread the power of the hostility and determination to destroy Israel as if it had no more significance than any routine bargaining difficulty, typical of win-win negotiations.

This is the result of projecting onto the Palestinians what they believe the Palestinians should want (a state) and the method of conflict resolution they should follow (win-win). In other words, this egocentric view entirely fails to comprehend the method of conflict resolution being followed by the Palestinians and the wider Arab world (winner-takes-all) and is completely uncomprehending of the commitment to what they really do want (the end of Israel).

By contrast, there is nothing on the horizon that indicates that the 2-State Solution, in the sense of 2-States for 2-Peoples, is even remotely acceptable to the Palestinians and the Arab world in general. Therefore, there is no foundation for a successful, stable and peaceful co-existence of 2-states. Without a Palestinian/Arab consensus to accept Israel as a Jewish state, a hostile Palestinian state on the so-called pre-1967 ‘borders’, controlling the high ground overlooking Israel’s largest concentrations of population and business, would suit the prospects for the 2-Stage agenda just fine.

No Palestinian peace efforts

As a result, it is hardly a shock that 20 years after Oslo, the PA has made no efforts to educate or lead its citizens towards peace with Israel, nor does it show any sign of doing so. This means that there is still a complete absence of discussion or debate about the possibility, advisability or necessity of accepting Israel as a Jewish state and reaching a conflict-ending ‘historic compromise’. The topic is entirely off the radar; it is a non-issue.

But it is shocking that all this is scarcely reported, discussed or featured in the international media. As a consequence, the driving force of the conflict is systematically obscured from the western public.

Understanding the basis of the Palestinian/Arab rejection of Israel as a legitimate expression of Jewish nationalism is crucial. After all, it would appear to be the simple reciprocal equivalent of Israeli acceptance of the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism and thus an uncontroversial but essential ingredient for a genuine 2-State solution to bring the conflict to an end.

The basis for the Arab rejection of Israel

The answer is simple: Arab/Palestinian nationalism is exclusive. It asserts that it alone constitutes a genuine nationalism in the region with the right to statehood. This is why concessions are never made to Jewish historical links to the region and why Jewish national claims are rejected. The continuity of these assertions from the Palestinian National Charter (quoted above) to the present shows no signs of yielding or accommodation to the views or rights of others.

Further, this exclusivity gains great power from its acceptance throughout the Arab world. It extends far beyond the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a denial of all non-Arab national claims, such as Kurds and Amazighs (Berbers) – the two largest national groups in the world without a state. These deep-seated cultural and historical attitudes create constant instability throughout the Arab world and present a permanent threat to ethnic and religious minorities.

Furthermore, in combination with a supremacist Islamic theology and historic and ingrained tribal values, an identity and world-view has evolved that despises compromise and concession as weakness and betrayal. Consequently, a prolonged struggle lies ahead if the Arab world is ever to accept non-Arab nation states in the Middle East.

The problem for a prospective peace between Israel and the Palestinians is how to marry this supremacist winner-takes-all approach to the typical western preference for win-win solutions? In fact, is this even possible? Both theory and practice deny it. Therefore, as long as the central feature of the Arab/Palestinian winner-takes-all approach is that they seek the destruction of their opponent, a win-win compromise agreement will be unattainable.

Peace is only made with the enemy

This insurmountable obstacle to a genuine 2-State Solution is not widely known. Years of peace talks, on-off negotiations, recriminations over settlements, debates about land-swaps, prisoner releases, and so on, have all reinforced the idea that the win-win approach is normal and agreed. As a result, the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state is hidden from view.

Consequently, the notion that peace is only made with the enemy has wide influence. As a statement it is a truism, hence its wide appeal. However, it is only tritely true. This is why its repetition, as if in some unfathomable way it could get round this most fundamental obstacle, is a denial of reality.

There are only two known methods of achieving peace with an enemy. The first is by defeating the enemy – as with Nazi Germany and Japan. The second is by weakening the enemy to such a degree – as with the Provisional IRA in Ireland – that they conclude that their best option is a negotiated peace rather than the continuation of a war they would lose.

Therefore, with incompatible and unresolvable positions, it is only possible to end the Arab-Israeli conflict when one side is defeated or modifies its position. A defeat for one side implies a winner-takes-all resolution of the conflict. By contrast, a modified position implies that a win-win conclusion to the conflict would be finally possible.

The modification necessary for the successful implementation of the 2-State Solution is Palestinian-Arab acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. Any formula that obscures or fails to secure this acceptance of Israel cannot provide the assurance needed by Israel.

Israel: the historical aberration

But what would satisfy as a sufficiently powerful assurance for Israel? At the very least, an overwhelming consensus among the Palestinians and the Arab League would be required. Currently, such a consensus is pure fantasy.

For the prospect of 2-States for 2-Peoples, the unfortunate reality is that there is little sign of either defeat or modification. On the contrary, the Palestinians have strong reasons to persist. They have Allah on their side, an exclusive sense of Arab nationalism and a historical perspective of Muslim rule in the region over hundreds of years. These provide the belief that the entire region is theirs by right.

They also enjoy a huge hinterland of Arab/Muslim and other international support, an abundance of fanatical young men, a lifetime of anti-Jewish indoctrination, the backing of an imminently nuclear-armed power, and clear signs of weakness in Israel and international support for Israel.

In sum, the 2-State Solution contradicts their claim to exclusivity. As a result, no matter how strongly advocates of the 2-State solution believe it ought to be the solution, their views have no influence. Instead, the Arab/Palestinian world view believes the exact opposite of the 2-State Solution: that there are no legitimate Jewish national rights on what they consider exclusively Arab/Muslim land and that any such admission would be a betrayal.

These are not compelling reasons to abandon the struggle and reach what to them would be an unnecessary and humiliating agreement with Israel. After all, why reach an agreement with an entity that is a historical aberration and hence doomed in any event? Therefore, as long as this continues to be the case, any agreement will only be an interim, unstable and dangerous phase in their on-going attempts to eliminate the ‘Zionist entity’.

Part 4 Democracy, liberalism and win-win solutions

Recognizing that the Arab rejection of Jewish national rights is the driving force of the conflict is to recognize that it is the real deal-killer. Therefore, without reversing this non-acceptance there will be no solution. At least there will be no solution on a win-win basis.

Unlike western democrats, neither the Palestinian narrative nor the governments of the West Bank and Gaza are democratic or liberal. Not a single Palestinian leader, party, faction or armed group, whether belonging to the PA or their Islamist opponents Hamas and other jihadists, is remotely interested in a liberal and democratic solution to end the conflict. Unlike many adherents of the 2-State solution, this is because they are not opposed primarily to the borders of Israel or its behavior but to its existence. For them, 2-States for 2-Peoples will not be a solution but an act of treason.

Repeatedly, the whole 2-State Solution crashes on this rock. Therefore, for the purposes of practical politics there is no constructive reason to pretend otherwise. Clarity and reality show that the belief that the Palestinians will make peace with Israel is in contradiction to all the evidence. This makes it a dangerous error (see The Driving Force of Palestinian Politics #1).

Only if the Arab/Palestinians see the injustice in their exclusive claim and/or no longer believe that Israel can be eliminated will a permanent peace agreement become possible. To proceed with a trance-like fixation on the 2-state solution as if this were not the case is dangerous drifting.

Israel’s diplomatic demands #1

In a long war of attrition, the side with the greatest assabiya, the inner strength or social cohesion necessary to provide the staying power to continue the conflict, has an advantage. Therefore, with no likelihood of an agreement with the Palestinians and the prospects of a long struggle ahead, Israel’s cohesion will be handicapped by remaining imprisoned in a win-win strategy when actually engaged in a winner-takes-all war.

Inner cohesion is also empowered by external support. This means that Israel has to meet urgent diplomatic tasks. These necessitate a move from defence to attack. The current frenzy of PA international activity to impose a state on Israel without negotiations provides a tremendous opportunity for this. A blizzard of public accusations aimed at the PA are required to assert Israel’s own rights and interests, which are practically invisible in the supposedly win-win negotiations.

These should openly accuse and blame the PA leadership by challenging them to refute or rectify the evidence of the following:

  • they have no intention of accepting an agreement based on 2-states for 2-peoples in order to end the conflict;
  • they refuse to abandon the aim of flooding Israel with the so-called refugees;
  • they have a complete lack of interest in a win-win solution to the conflict.

At the same time, Israel’s diplomacy also needs to work with those friends of Israel, such as Australia, Canada, the US and others, to call publicly and persistently upon the Palestinians to implement the following specific measures:
cease denying Jews the same rights to national self-determination they claim for themselves;
abandon the fictitious right of return to Israel of the fictitious refugees;
jettison the claim to pre-June 67 ‘borders’.

Israel’s demands #2

Further, if a Palestinian state is the answer that many western countries believe, those states presumably want it to succeed. This will require Israel’s agreement and cooperation. But to agree, Israel needs assurances that are completely absent. Therefore, in the interests of saving the 2-State Solution, its international supporters might also be publicly and repeatedly invited to expend considerable efforts to persuade the PA:
to end the glorification of ‘martyred’ terrorists and praise for ‘heroic’ prisoners;
to cease payments to jailed terrorists (about 6% of the PA budget);
to stop the constant stream of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement.

Demanding these measures will help fill a disastrous gap in public understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Currently, when the international public repeatedly hears references to security from Israeli spokespersons, it understands this to refer to terrorist incidents and acts of violence. The problem is that the international public largely believes that these security issues are caused by the absence of a Palestinian state, which is prevented by Israel. As a result, sympathy for Israel is weak.

By contrast, when Israel refers to security, as well as incidents of terror, it also means other dangers, such as those from a hostile Palestinian state, which would threated a major escalation of the conflict. The difficulty for Israel is that the international public has almost zero comprehension of this.

However, it is widely known that Israel is the strongest military power in the region. Therefore, constantly bleating-on about its security attracts little understanding or concern. Instead, Israel’s hasbara should emphasize questions of principle and reciprocity. This will allow it to present its security concerns in a way that gain public sympathy rather than repel it by hectoring and lecturing.

Israel’s demands #3

Additionally, the Palestinians have breached the Oslo Accords in a major way by their rejection of negotiations and unilateral attempts to alter the status of the West Bank. This provides an opportunity for an approach by Israel to those states, such as Norway and the EU, which formally witnessed the Oslo Accords and which appear enthusiastic about a Palestinian state.

They should be publicly question regarding their efforts to bring the Palestinians and their allies to abandon these conflict-escalating actions and return to the agreements they have signed. In other words, in place of their habitual criticisms of Israel, these states can be publicly invited to make demands of the Palestinians consistent with the agreements they witnessed and to allay Israel’s concerns.

In addition, along with others, they could also be invited to take a stand for the ‘peace process’ by encouraging and helping the PA to take make the following changes:

  • replace rule by decree with democratic procedures and the rule of law;
  • rewrite the Palestinian National Charter to make clear the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state;
  • initiate public campaigns to publicize and promote the end of the conflict on the basis of 2-states for 2-peoples;
  • institute government transparency to end the siphoning-off of international donations to a wealthy elite and instead encourage economic development.

Hasbara offensive

Every diplomatic demand to friendly or half-friendly states has two diplomatic questions:

  1. if they are not making these demands of the Palestinians, why not?
  2. if they are not making these demands of the Palestinians, what are they doing?

Unless tackled head-on in this way, which is the task of Israel’s state-to-state diplomacy and its public diplomacy (its hasbara, explaining), there is no perspective or strategy to radically improve Israel’s diplomatic standing internationally. This international vulnerability in turn weakens its internal cohesion A quiet, low-profile diplomacy that fails to make claims and demands will fail to meet the challenges.

By combining these claims and demands, the visibility of key issues that are usually hidden would be raised and confronted; whereas by allowing them to remain hidden they cannot. This open diplomatic approach can also play to Israel’s other strengths. It will provide leadership and encouragement to Israel’s friends and Jews in the diaspora to enlist them in the struggle to dispute and blunt, counter or defeat anti-Israel positions.

Additionally, in the event of the failure of efforts to alter the behavior of the Palestinians, this public diplomacy will help place the blame where it belongs – on the Palestinians. The effect of years of peace talks and negotiations, which have served to obscure from public view the basic and ongoing rejectionism of the Palestinians, would at last begin to be exposed.

Either way, a diplomatic offensive with pointed questions, accusations, blame, claims and demands will increase the level of public understanding of the issues in a way that is currently impossible with Israel’s concerns completely out of public sight. Even if these measures prove less than completely successful, the causes of their failure will not be lost on everyone.

In other words, Israel needs to be seen to fight diplomatically and publicly. Fighting in itself rallies support. By contrast, silence on central issues that are under attack implies acquiescence, weakness and guilt. Diplomatic passivity gives the enemies of Israel the license and the confidence to push harder. Moreover, if Israel is not prepared to argue openly, why should others do so on its behalf?

An unprecedented opportunity for conflict escalation

Without successful measures to restrain the Palestinians and secure their acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, the 2-State Solution will remain a pipe-dream. Its mantra of being the equitable solution that will satisfy both the justified national aspirations of the Palestinians and the justified security aspirations of the Israelis, will again fail. It will fail because this ostensibly reasonable solution does not satisfy the real aspirations of the Palestinians. This means it cannot satisfy Israel’s security concerns.

As a result, the establishment of a Palestinian state on this basis will keep intact all the ingredients of the conflict. Even worse, it will provide tremendous encouragement and unprecedented opportunity for the enemies of Israel to pursue the second stage of their winner-takes-all solution. Dangerously close to Israel’s major population and economic centers, the result will be neither peace nor security.

This is why the introduction of a sharp dose of reality to the dreamier sections of the international community is needed to bring them to the realization that the consequences of failing to secure Palestinian/Arab acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state will be not produce a 2-State Solution based on 2-States for 2-Peoples. Instead, for all the apparent liberal and democratic good intentions, it will be a disaster.

Making the key demand the major public issue

In the event of the near-certain failure to convince the Palestinians away from their disastrous course, placing these implications at the center of Israel’s diplomacy is needed to garner support to block the imposition of a Palestinian state. Additionally, if the 2-State Solution is not going to happen, something else will. Therefore, these initiatives will enhance Israel’s diplomatic position for the second priority: to manage the consequences of Palestinian intransigence.

All this will need very direct, public and loud questions to certain democratic states about the morality of their support for the formation of a state that insists that it alone possesses the right of self-determination. How can the morality be accepted that claims exclusive national rights for itself and denies them to Jews? Where is the morality or honesty that supports the outrageous denial of historical links of Jews to the land? What is the track-record of those states that support a Palestinian state on these issues?

The present situation thus provides opportunities for Israel to make substantial inroads into the pre-eminence of the Palestinian narrative. Naturally, this is not to promote a counter-claim of exclusive rights or morality. The contention is not that Israel is perfect or that Bibi is the Moshiach, but that Israel also has rights and claims, which must now be pressed both publicly and relentlessly.

To return to Gidi Grinstein, all this means is that Israel needs to avoid once again being embroiled in fake final status talks. These have the disastrous effect of disguising Palestinian intransigence behind the appearance of a win-win procedure. Instead, Israel will be better served by demanding Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state as a condition of final status talks. If the Palestinians continue to refuse this, what final status talks are possible?

Therefore, it is better to bring this whole issue into the open and make it the cornerstone of Israel’s public diplomacy. It will be hard to imagine a measure more able to raise the international profile of the foremost issue for a settlement based on 2-states for 2-peoples.

Part 5 The Israeli elections

If the current election campaign in Israel results in a new government headed by any combination of Herzog, Lapid, Lieberman or Livni (see, Tzipi Livni; Inept or Dangerous?), matters will change only marginally. The Palestinians will probably agree to some kind of talks. Encouraged by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, these will be hyped as make-or-break/last chance for the 2-State Solution/last chance for peace, and so on.

Alas, some in Israel, Europe and the US will be taken in and actually believe it – yet again. But for sure the Palestinians won’t. As the track-record to date shows they have no intention of reaching an agreement that accepts Israel. Therefore, for the Palestinians, the talks will have a different set of purposes.

Their key aim will be to see how far any non-Netanyahu government will move in their direction and how far it can be pushed. In other words, for the Palestinians these will not be serious negotiations to reach a final agreement. Instead, they will be merely fact-finding expeditions to probe the new Israeli government and test if it allows them any closer to stage one of their 2-Stage solution. Then, if they fail to find sufficient weakness, they will walk away again.

Israel’s new hasbara

All of this is going to place enormous burdens on Israel’s public diplomacy – its hasbara, explaining. Unfortunately, the truth is that Israel’s hasbara is simply not up to this task. Instead, it is hopelessly ineffective, weak, slow and off-target. Its leaders appear to think that they are doing the best they can, but that little can be done given the extensive hostility to Israel from much of the world. However, the extent of that hostility is precisely why our hasbara needs radical improvement in quantity and substance.

To give a single example, during the recent Gaza war, Israeli government and military spokesmen appeared daily before audiences of MILLIONS on TV channels throughout the English speaking world. Yet time after time, they were defensive, feeble and unconvincing under pressure from antagonistic questioning about Palestinian casualties and the blockade.

Instead, they scarcely attempted to turn the tables by stating that to end the war, end the casualties and end the blockade was simplicity itself – all it needed was a government in Gaza not determined to destroy Israel and to murder as many of its citizens as possible. As well as being a fighting response, it would also have been true. It would also have opened the space for an appeal directly to viewers to confirm this for themselves by checking the Hamas Charter online.

This simple fact would have produced two benefits. Firstly, by directing attention to the cause of the situation, it would have educated huge numbers of viewers who rarely receive this information by the mainstream channels. Secondly, it would have provided the opportunity for further probing of the interviewer by the spokesperson. For example, they could have been questioned why the channel merely repeated Hamas propaganda on casualties without qualification or challenge, or why they never investigated Hamas rockets that fell on populated areas of Gaza, and so on (see How Many Civilian Casualties in Gaza?).

With an almost total ban on the use of the word ‘terroríst’ by the western media, including in references to Hamas, this type of pushing back against hostile assumptions would have been a simple and effective method to break through constant misinformation and distortions. In this way, it would have been possible to have considerably enhanced their effectiveness and shaken the ability of the media to fix the terms of information and debate against Israel.

Hasbara transformation

Further, how often did our representatives accuse the Palestinians of not shifting from their refusal to accept a Jewish state as proposed in 1947 by the UN General Assembly Resolution? Rarely? Never? How often did they question the morality of Palestinian/Arab claims to be the sole possessors of rights of self-determination in the region? Rarely? Never? How often did they attempt to expose the Palestinian refusal to accept 2-States for 2-Peoples to end the ‘occupation’ and the conflict? Rarely? Never?

Yet these types of initiatives should have been part of every interview – repeated on all possible occasions. A lesson should be learned from Palestinian speakers who rarely miss an opportunity to blame the conflict on Israel’s ‘occupation’. In fact, they have been so successful that their hasbara is widely accepted as truth.

In other words, a great deal of well thought out pre-planning was needed so that our spokespersons were equipped with several sound bite solutions and sound bite questions to enable them to gain the ascendancy and respect that was clearly absent.

By contrast, this failure to utilize a few simple measures meant that unparalleled opportunities with vast audiences round the world were regularly squandered. As a result, the international public, as well as friends of Israel and Jews in the diaspora, were deprived of confident and powerful arguments. This left them isolated and weak under great pressure from the weight of anti-Israel propaganda, which faced only minimal opposition.

Therefore, after the March elections, there is an urgent need for the new government to put an end to this serious incompetence. An overhaul of Israel’s complacent and defeatist hasbara is long overdue if it is to be transformed into the effective and combative instrument Israel needs to counter threats to its legitimacy and existence.

Conclusion

For over twenty years, witness states to the Oslo accords and others have invested heavily in the PA, both diplomatically and financially, in the hope of finally ending this conflict. Without international donations on a huge scale and the military assistance and support from the US and Israel it is doubtful the PA rulers would last a week.

Yet the repayment for this trust and support is a wholescale reneging of their contract with Israel, the Oslo Accords. Instead, to avoid mutual recognition and negotiations, they have embarked on a path of conflict with Israel without the slightest regard for previous agreements.

Additionally, Mahmoud Abbas is now beginning the eleventh year of his 4-year term. Elections have been abandoned and the PLO has appointed him president for life. Ruling by decree, his regime is characterised by abuse of power, arbitrary arrest, torture, corruption, murderous anti-Israel incitement and blatant dishonesty.

The final straw is that instead of committing the Palestinians to end the conflict, the PA has demonstrated that it remains true to the Palestinian National Charter and to principles indistinguishable from the traditional Arab 3-NOs:

  • NO negotiations (to end the conflict via 2-states for 2-peoples);
  • NO acceptance of Israel (as a Jewish state);
  • NO peace (to end the conflict).

This forces Israel to counter unilateral Palestinian actions and prevent a hostile Palestinian state on its border. This requires that Israel conduct its public diplomacy with the central issue of the conflict at the top of its agenda and out in the open rather than out of sight where it can be ignored with the consequence that Israel is yet again blamed for the inevitable failure to realize the 2-State Solution.

Jon Dyson

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