Should Palestinians Recognize Israel as Jewish State? For Peace Sake?

Written by Kevin Fobbs on January 3, 2014

The fight for recognition of Israel as a legitimate Jewish state has been the perennial stumbling block for peace in the Middle East for decades. Even with the recent negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran by the United States and several other countries, recognition of Israel by Iran was left off of the table.

Yet, it is the Palestinians who have waged a long war of attrition that continues to stalk any viable peace agreement between leaders of Israel and the Palestinian state. Any movement toward peace has wilted on the vines and will continue to do so unless the legitimacy of Israel becomes accepted and acceptable to Palestinians and their Arab neighboring countries.

There have been many missed opportunities and a slew of various temporary agreements which have been signed off by leaders on both sides; only to be broken. This has made peace in the Middle East a seeming implausible goal.

2014 could be the year where either the long sought peace is made or the breakout of a war on several fronts engulfs the Jewish state. According to the New York Times, the reluctance of the Palestinians to come to the table with universal acceptance of Israel is politically impractical for them. They claim that any possible recognition of Israel would automatically “disenfranchise its 1.6 million Arab citizens.” They also feel their own claim to their presence in Israel would cause serious psychological harm to the Palestinian inhabitants.

So, in effect, this has a lot more to do with hurt feelings than it does about getting down to serious business about creating a lasting peace. There is something that may be an incentive to speed about the peace process and it is called the war waging in Syria between the government forces and the various rebel factions.

Israel and the Palestinians have a stake in seeing the war not slip across the border into their respective areas. With hundreds of thousands of war refugees already in Lebanon and in Turkey, Palestinians don’t want to be a welfare state for refugees and also give Israel one more reason to legally come into the Palestinian area to root out potential Al Qaeda terrorists hiding amongst the refugees.

This is why the peace talks which have been ongoing since last summer need to continue and stop working around the edges and move toward the obvious elephant in the room. That elephant would be recognition of a Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that recognition of a Jewish state is “the real key to peace,” reported the New York Times.

So, if this is as Netanyahu terms it a “minimal requirement” and “an essential condition,” is any further negotiations with the Palestinians a waste of effort?

The war-drums may be in both nations’ future because with the “Recognition” stakes. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has repeatedly insisted that the Palestinians will never agree to Israel being a Jewish State. According to the New York Times Abbas recently wrote President Obama about his rejection of the idea.

The central crux has to do with whether or not Israel is defined as a territory which has a Jewish majority or whether the nation is defined with a religious title of recognition. Many Palestinians insist that being a Jewish state based on ethnicity and religion discards the Palestinian history and entitlement to their own land.

So the central or core concern for many on both sides of the question of recognition of a country based upon its nation’s religion looks to be the true sticking point in the negotiations and hesitation by Palestinian establishment leaders.

An analogy can be made between Israel and the United States if the United States insisted that it be considered a Christian state and should be so recognized by the world; allies and enemies alike. So, is America a nation of Christians or is it like many around the world consider the nation to be a nation where the majority of the population is Christian?

Just consider the point and you come to your own conclusions, but for peace sake, one hopes that Israel and the Palestinians come to a resolution sometime soon or 2014 may be known for the year when all out war was ignited. Is it all about the name: Israel land of the Jewish people or is it the Jewish state known as Israel?

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Kevin Fobbs
Kevin Fobbs has more than 35 years of wide-ranging experience as a community and tenant organizer, Legal Services outreach program director, public relations consultant, business executive, gubernatorial and presidential appointee, political advisor, widely published writer, and national lecturer. Kevin is co-chair and co-founder of AC-3 (American-Canadian Conservative Coalition) that focuses on issues on both sides of the border between the two countries.