Why Palestinians can’t recognize a ‘Jewish state’ - Haaretz
In his speech before the U.S. Congress last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posed a serious challenge to the Palestinian Authority: If the PA would just say, “We recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” this would be sufficient to end the conflict. Israel, said Netanyahu, would be the first to vote for Palestinian statehood in the United Nations. The response of PA Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad, in a recent interview with Haaretz, was that, “Israel’s character is its own business. It is not up to the Palestinians to define it.”
That is an unconvincing response. If recognition is just a technical point, why not say the seven requested words in order to win the vote in the United Nations? The Palestine Liberation Organization certainly understands the significance of Netanyahu’s offer, as it adopted a concept similar to that of the Jewish state in the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, which proclaims: “The State of Palestine is the state of Palestinians wherever they may be.” Moreover, how can it be explained that the PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist and the PA’s security apparatus works in full coordination with Israel - but they are not prepared to say these seven words?
Israel’s Declaration of Independence of 1948 expressed the meaning of the “Jewish state.” It opens by noting: “Eretz Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people,” and it continues by recounting the history and national memory of the Jewish people and their exclusive ownership of the state: “This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate … in their own sovereign state.”
The cornerstone of the Jewish state is the Law of Return, as the Supreme Court has noted. This is why Palestinian refugees have no right to return to Israel, whereas any Jew in the world, together with any non-Jewish members of his or her immediate family, has the right to immigrate to Israel. In stark contrast, Israeli law prohibits Israeli-Arab citizens from living within the Green Line with their Palestinian spouses, if the latter are residents of the West Bank or Gaza.
For the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is to declare their surrender, meaning, to waive their group dignity by negating their historical narrative and national identity. This recognition would affirm that since the rebirth of Israel is a “natural” and exclusive right, the first revolt in “our” history as Palestinians - against the British Mandate in the 1930s for encouraging Jewish immigration, as well as our resistance to Israel’s establishment in 1948 - were mistakes. Thus, the Nakba is “our” fault only.
By this recognition, we would accept the rationale of the Law of Return, and as a result, we would waive our right to return, even in principle. Further, since the historical masters of the land possess rights a priori, the confiscation of Palestinian land and its designation as “absentee property” makes sense, even when members of this group are “present absentees” in Israel. Also, because the revival of Hebrew expresses the rebirth of the nation, it should be the sole official language of this land and we would also accept the names of our villages and sites being changed from Arabic to Hebrew.