There is a stand-off happening against the backdrop of a U.S. peace proposal. Netanyahu is insisting that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is required to prove that the Palestinians are serious about peace. Abbas was quoted last week saying that there is no way he will meet this demand. The general media swing on this seems to paint Abbas’ refusal as a blockade stubbornly erected in the face of progression and peace. It’s funny how the media portrays things.
In 1993 the PLO recognized the state of Israel and Abbas has acknowledged this fact and stands by it. Netanyahu’s insistence that this is not enough and that Abbas must recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a loaded and impossible demand, designed to reframe the Palestinians in a harsh and unsympathetic light. It seems unlikely that Netanyahu’s pro-settler leadership is going to make a peace deal and this demand allows them to project that unwillingness upon the Palestinian leadership by putting the word ‘no’ in their mouths. It is telling that this demand has been made before Israel has proposed borders for this peace proposal.
Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” would re-affirm the second-class citizenship of Arab-Israelis and validate the abandonment of any notion of Israel as a democracy of equal citizens. For some of the Arab population in Israel it may be possible to be Arab-Israeli whilst impossible to be Arab-Jewish. Further, it would support the view that Israelis who have not lived in that region for 2,000 or more years have a right to live on Palestinian land that is not shared by Palestinian refugees only one generation removed. It seems that for Abbas to make this concession would ultimately be for him to concede the right of return. To concede the right of return would be to concede a right on behalf of a people for whom he is not a representative and never has been a representative for – elected or otherwise.
Netanyahu knows that Abbas will not make this declaration because he cannot possibly do it! But in requesting that which will be denied, Netanyahu is able to divert attention from Israeli unwillingness in these peace talks. Perhaps this demand could best be revisited once the proposed borders for this “Jewish state” have been put forward. But it seems that information will only be avaliable once the undoable has been done.
Blaming the victims is the theme of this conflict indeed.