What About Israeli Rejectionism?

Why the Jewish State Must Recognize Palestine

Courtesy Reuters

Yosef Kuperwasser and Shalom Lipner's "The Problem Is Palestinian Rejectionism" (November/December 2011) hangs on an echo -- perhaps an unconscious one -- of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. "The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state stands at the root of the struggle and behind every so-called core issue," the authors argue. "Rather than focus on the issues of settlement activity and territory, success in the negotiations will first require at least a tentative change in the Palestinian position on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state." This is a prime example of the ongoing attempts to revive the increasingly incredulous myth that a peace-loving Israel simply has "no partner for peace."

One fact is undisputed: In 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized "the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security" through the letters of mutual recognition exchanged between then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. The authors correctly note that the declaration did not imply a Palestinian recognition of a "Jewish state." However, they inaccurately interpret the omission as proof of a thinly concealed Palestinian scheme to pretend to support a two-state solution.

The truth is less dramatic. The declaration did not include the recognition of a "Jewish state" for the simple reason that Israeli leaders had not asked for it. And this was hardly an accident; they made no such request in the years that preceded the Oslo accords and did not include any such statement in the "road map for peace" or the "joint understanding" of the 2007 Annapolis Conference. Contrary to Kuperwasser and Lipner's claim, the demand to gain outside recognition for a Jewish state is a position without precedent.

Of course, Israel has officially characterized itself as a "Jewish and a democratic state" since amending the basic law in the 1980s. Still, virtually no international actor, including Arab states with diplomatic relations with Israel, has ever been asked to embrace this designation. That is not

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