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Why The Palestinians Can’t Say Two Simple Words

Ali Jarbawi explained in a Times editorial that the Palestinians can’t say the words “Jewish state,” because that would negate their historical narrative in which they see themselves as victims of history who can only be made whole by the destruction of Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas, acting leader of the Palestinian Authority

Mahmoud Abbas, acting leader of the Palestinian Authority
Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/FLASH90

As we learned from his recent interview with journalist Jeffery Goldberg, President Obama is obsessed with the idea that Israeli intransigence is the reason there is no peace in the Middle East.

But Israel has already shown its willingness to accept a U.S. framework for continued talks despite justified misgivings about the direction of the negotiations. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have given every indication they won’t buy into the framework because they fear it will commit them to the one thing they have repeatedly shown no interest in accepting: peace.

Further proof of that came earlier this month from The New York Times in the form of an op-ed from a leading Palestinian academic explaining why his people could never agree to one of the key points in the framework: recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Ali Jarbawi of Bir Zeit University gave a number of reasons why the Jewish state demand is a non-starter.

Not entirely by coincidence, the Times editorial page has endorsed the Palestinian position on the Jewish state. The Times’s dismissal of the Jewish state demand is one more indication that the paper’s supposed concern for Israel’s future is less than sincere.

Let’s first dismiss the claim made by both the Times and Jarbawi that this demand by Israel is an innovation on Netanyahu’s part whose purpose is to derail the peace process. In fact, there’s nothing new about it. The original 1947 United Nations partition resolution stated that the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River was to be divided between an Arab state and one it designated as a “Jewish state.”

If the Palestinians are now reversing their adamant rejection of partition by saying they will be satisfied by an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, there should be no problem accepting this term.

But they can’t, and Jarbawi doesn’t shy away from explaining why. The Palestinians can’t say the words “Jewish state” because to do so would force them to give up their historical narrative in which they see themselves as victims of history who can only be made whole by annulling the results of Israel’s War of Independence.

The key principle of Palestinian nationalism is rejection of Zionism and the existence of Israel no matter where its borders are drawn. If Palestinians agree that a Jewish state has a right to exist, that means they are forever giving up their dreams of extinguishing it. That seems unfair to Jarbawi because it means the 1948 refugees and their descendants would be deprived of their dream of “return,” which means the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Jarbawi makes the specious point that agreeing to Israel’s being a Jewish state would compromise the rights of Israel’s Arab minority. He knows very well this is a red herring since Israel’s basic laws hold that it is both a Jewish state and one in which ethnic and religious minorities have full rights. Israeli Arabs are equal before the law in Israel; they serve in its Knesset, government and judiciary. There is no conceivable scenario under which those rights will be annulled even in the event of war, let alone the outbreak of peace.

But his real objection to this point comes in the next paragraph when he says that even if those conditions are confirmed, Palestinians fear a peace treaty might mean that Jews in the West Bank who wish to remain in their homes in the event of peace, would be given the same rights that Arabs have in Israel.

A savvy Palestinian propagandist might have been willing to concede the right of Jews to live in a future Palestinian State as a protected minority, but not Jarbawi. Speaking for what is mainstream – indeed, the virtually unanimous – opinion of Palestinians, the academic says Jews have no right to be there and therefore cannot be accorded the equal rights Arabs have inside Israel. Their vision of peace is apparently one in which a Jew-free Palestinian state exists alongside an Israel flooded by Palestinian refugees who would vote the Jewish state out of existence.

While Obama, Kerry and the Times are mindlessly blaming Netanyahu for fighting a two-state solution he has already accepted, the Palestinians persist in laying down terms for peace that are not only unrealistic, but demonstrate that the end of their century-old conflict with Zionism is still at the top of their agenda. The more the Palestinians explain why they cannot say two simple words, the more obvious it becomes that peace is not their objective.

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.


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26 Responses to “Why The Palestinians Can’t Say Two Simple Words”

  1. Olga Pinsky says:

    Because he looks like an ancient mummy!

  2. Because the Palestinians are terrorist. He can any negotiate with terrorist, really????

  3. Because the Palestinians are terrorist. He can any negotiate with terrorist, really????

  4. Tarek Saba says:

    Olga Pinsky how’s poland?

  5. when are you people going to wake up…

  6. when are you people going to wake up…

  7. Say “Jewish State ” it won’t hurt ! And don’t
    Touch ISRAEL , you can’t
    Keep blaming ISRAEL for
    What you should blame
    Yourself for! I stand by ISRAEL ,

  8. Martin Kool says:

    Judea and samaria our homeland .

  9. Martin Kool says:

    Judea and samaria our homeland .

  10. How can Christ make an agreement with the Devil….History shows Jerusalem belongs to Isreal…

  11. How can Christ make an agreement with the Devil….History shows Jerusalem belongs to Isreal…

  12. there is a reason we are called bnai yisroel.

  13. Romeo Singh says:

    ISRAEL IS PROMISE TO THE JEWS BY YHWH…

  14. YES they do, as ordained by God himself.

  15. YES they do, as ordained by God himself.

  16. Howard Hyman says:

    I say EXPEL THESE BAST*RDS!!! They will never accept Israel. Let us stop pretending!

  17. Howard Hyman says:

    Gaza and Sinai ALSO are part of Israel!

  18. If the Pals try to resort to the UN, and even the US it’s asinine. Doubtful they would care, of course, but the same two entitles declared Israel to be a state. Is that sensible?? (No)

  19. In a time to come,Will they all wish they had.

  20. Israel Will NEVER Be Annihilated!!

  21. Steven Plaut says:

    I have two simple words for those people who claim Israel needs to stop insisting that the "Palestinians" recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state and the first of the two starts with an "F"

  22. I say we never talk to the arab savage barbarians at all.

  23. Alan Kardon says:

    No recognition, no talks and no release of any more terrorists. Stay tough Israel.

  24. Kathie Sykes says:

    The name of the "Palestinian" state… Jordan. Whoever won't live peacefully should be sent over the river.

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