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*Editor’s Note: This is the sixth installment in the most recent series of articles from Jewish Press Online contributor, Alex Grobman, PhD  

“Until the region says unequivocally, they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace,” declared President Joe Biden. [1] The repeated threats to destroy Israel and the unremitting incitement against the Jews [2] will ensure the conflict will continue. The justification for refusing to recognize Israel is found in Articles 15 and 20 of the Palestinian National Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Article 15 asserts, “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. [3]


According to one source, the correct translation of the term “the elimination of Zionism,” is “the liquidation of the Zionist presence.” Arabs use the expression “the Zionist presence,” a familiar Arabic euphemism for Israel, “so this clause in fact calls for the destruction of Israel, not just the end of Zionism.” [4]

Article 20 denies any historical connection of the Jews to the land of Israel. “The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon 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 true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.” [5]

Does Israel Need Anyone’s Affirmation for Its Right to Exist?

Abba Eban, Israel’s Foreign Minister from 1966 to 1974, and then a member of the Labor opposition in the Knesset, said “Nobody does Israel any service by proclaiming its ‘right to exist.’ It is disturbing to find so many people right well-disposed to Israel giving currency to this contemptuous formulation. Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement by the royal house in Riyadh. Nor does a group such as the Palestine Liberation Organization have any juridical competence to accord recognition to states, or withhold it.[6]

“Israel,” he added “was considered worthy of something more concrete than a mere declaration of its right to stay alive. In UN Resolution 242, there is a call for ”acknowledgement of the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.” The resolution also calls for ”agreement…to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement.” [7]

Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister, strenuously objected to the notion that Israel’s right to exist “has to be sanctioned for political purposes by an intrinsically anti-Semitic, murderous Palestinian Arab terrorist organization? Have you lost your Jewish self-respect,” he asked. “Where is your Jewish memory?” [8]

When Begin became prime minster in 1997, an Englishman with a “perfectly pitched BBC announcer’s voice” enquired whether Begin looked forward to the day when the Palestinian Arabs would recognize Israel’s right to exist. Begin’s “jaw tightened,” but he comely responded, “Traditionally, there are four major criteria of statehood under international law. One – an effective and independent government.

Two – an effective and independent control of the population. Three – a defined territory. And four – the capacity to freely engage in foreign relations. Israel is in possession of all four attributes and, hence, is a fully fledged sovereign state and a fully accredited member of the United Nations.” [9]

The Englishman then asked whether Begin would require the Palestinian Arab leadership to recognize Israel as a sine qua non for negotiations. “Certainly not!” Begin affirmed. “Those so-called relevant organizations are gangs of murderers bent on destroying the State of Israel. We will never conduct talks about our own destruction.” What if they were to recognize Israel’s existence, the fellow persisted, “would you then negotiate with them?” “No, sir!” “Why not?” “Because I don’t need Palestinian recognition for my right to exist.”

Standing before the Knesset two hours later on his first day in office and after this caustic exchange, Begin began discussing Israel’s right to exist. “Our right to exist – have you ever heard of such a thing?” he declared. “Would it enter the mind of any Briton or Frenchman, Belgian or Dutchman, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Russian or American, to request for its people recognition of its right to exist?” Glaring at his audience and shaking his finger, he quieted every voice in the Knesset chamber. “Mr. Speaker: We were granted our right to exist by the God of our fathers at the glimmer of the dawn of human civilization four thousand years ago. Hence, the Jewish people have an historic, eternal and inalienable right to exist in this land, Eretz Yisrael, the land of our forefathers. We need nobody’s recognition in asserting this inalienable right. And for this inalienable right, which has been sanctified in Jewish blood from generation to generation, we have paid a price unexampled in the annals of nations.” Then he stood on his toes and in a thunderous voice proclaimed, “Mr. Speaker: From the Knesset of Israel, I say to the world, our very existence per se is our right to exist!”

As the meeting with President Jimmy Carter in the White House came to a close three weeks later, the president handed the prime minister the formal communique of their meeting. After Begin read the document he asked that the sentence, “The United States affirms Israel’s inherent right to exist” be removed. Carter said, “It would be incompatible with my responsibilities as president of the United States were I to omit this commitment to your country, since this public pledge had been a request of every other former Israeli prime minister.” He thanked the president and explained he wanted the sentence deleted “Because our Jewish state needs no American affirmation of our right to exist. Our Hebrew bible established that right millennia ago. Never, throughout the centuries, did we ever abandon or forfeit that right. Therefore, sir, we alone, the Jewish people – no one else – are responsible for our country’s right to exist.” [10]

No End to the Miracle

Throughout the thousands of years of Jewish existence, there were only three eras in which we enjoyed independence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained: eight decades during the reigns of King David and King Solomon; eight decades under the rule of the Hasmonaeans; and eight decades since the state of Israel was established. During this entire period, he said, “we never lost hope that we would return to our homeland, the land of Zion, where we would live in prosperity as free people. “Having restored our independence, we cannot, let anyone bring an end to this miracle.” [11]


[1] Dani Dayan, “Real Peace Depends on Recognizing Israel’s Right to Exist,” The New York Times (May 28, 2021).

[2] Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “To war that will… set the Zionist’s soul on fire” – Literature taught by the PA,” Palestinian Media Watch (February 12, 2023); Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “PA Min. of Educ. to kids: There is no Israel, ‘the entire land is ours, from the Sea to the River’” Palestinian Media Watch (November 24, 2021); PMW Staff Interview with Itamar Marcus on PMW’s report, “Teaching Terror to Tots,” Palestinian Media Watch (January 9, 2023).

[3]; Leila S. Kadi, Ed., Basic Political Documents of the Armed Palestinian Resistance Movement, Palestine Research Centre (Beirut, December 1969): 137-141.

[4]; Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “PA minister: Palestinian unity needed to destroy Israel,” Palestinian Media Watch (April 10, 2012).


[6] Abba Eban, “The Saudi Text,” The New York Times (November 18, 1981); Adi Schwartz, “A country in question,” Haaretz (January 22, 2007).

[7] Eban, “The Saudi Text,” op.cit.

[8] Yehuda Avner, “Israel does not need Palestinian recognition,” The Jerusalem Post (June 14, 2006).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi: My Story (New York: Threshold Editions, 2022), 653.


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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.