No Palestinian State Without A 'Jewish State' / Rachel Miller

When French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé recently said, "There will be no solution to the conflict in the Middle East without recognition of two nation-states for two peoples," he was repeating a truism. But his description - "the nation-state of Israel for the Jewish people, and the nation-state of Palestine for the Palestinian people" - raised a storm.

Even though his view is shared by President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and many other world leaders, it is anathema to Palestinians, who claim the right to a state as a matter of justice but will not grant the Jewish people the same right. As chief Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath put it, "We will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

Why won't the Palestinians come to grips with a reality that has been clear to the rest of the world for generations?

Israel is the fruit of the Zionist movement, launched in the late 19th century to end two millennia of exile by restoring Jews to their historical homeland. The Balfour Declaration, the 1917 British document adopted by the League of Nations specified the goal of "a national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine. The United Nations partition plan of 1947 that provided the legal basis for the creation of Israel called for the division of Mandatory Palestine into two states, one "Jewish" and the other "Arab."

Israel's declaration of independence announced "the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state." It tied the fledgling state to the Jewish past: "The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books." At the time, no one disputed the obvious Jewish character of the new state. Today, the blue-and-white Star of David flag, the use of Hebrew, the day of rest on Saturday, the annual holiday cycle and a multitude of other cultural signifiers mark Israel as the only Jewish state.

The objection to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state cannot be based on religious discrimination against non-Jews. While culturally and historically Jewish, Israel is not a theocracy. It is a secular state, and even in those areas such as family law where Jewish law is officially recognized, it affects only Jews. The declaration of independence that identifies Israel with Jewish history and destiny says the state "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." The religious freedom that non-Jewish Israelis possess far surpasses that enjoyed by Muslim and minority Christian groups elsewhere in the Middle East.

Why, then, are the Palestinians so set against the designation of Israel as what it is? It is because Islam has never recognized the validity of any land once Muslim falling into control of non-Muslims, and because many Arabs refuse to acknowledge the Jewish historical link to the land. The Palestinian leadership still retains the hope that large numbers of its people, instead of settling in the new Palestinian state, would use the so-called "right of return" to enter Israel. This, combined with the high Arab birthrate, presumably would turn Israel into a second Palestinian state.

Israel's determination to head off this possibility by insisting on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state makes sense. And world leaders should be applauded for recognizing that peace can come only when the Palestinians and the Arab world generally give up the dream of wiping Israel off the map.

Rachel Miller is director of the American Jewish Committee's Palm Beach County office.

Who is resposible for the lack of a peace agreement ?

A PA minister eveals the truth who is responsible for the lack of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The minister plan to destriy Israel - not to live side by side in 2 states.

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