Thursday, January 23, 2014
Peres might inflict harm on Israel
There is no point in debating fringe leftists who are eager to undermine Israel's claims. Retaining the Jordan Valley? Developing the Iron Dome? Insisting Israel be recognized as a Jewish state? No, no, and no. (As for the Iron Dome, that debate has somewhat subsided.)
They have focused their efforts on countering Israel's opening gambits in the peace talks with the Palestinians. Their immediate goal is to erode Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence on having the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state.
When former Knesset Speaker Avraham (Avrum) Burg leads the charge, no eyebrows are raised. He has become the ultimate naysayer, like that character in the children's book. But when President Shimon Peres tells world leaders that Netanyahu is delusional in making that claim -- a story Israel Hayom reporter Shlomo Cesana broke on Wednesday -- this is just scandalous. Is Peres really going to take such charged views to Davos this week when he leads the Israeli delegation to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting? As a result of such statements, Israel's governments might prefer to have his would-be successors chosen based on their ability to be the government's lapdog; the government will seek mediocre wheelers and dealers rather than independent thinkers, to avoid a situation like the one Peres created.
But that is of secondary importance. The damage Peres could inflict has more pressing aspects.
Let's look at the substance of Netanyahu's demand. By agreeing to the phrase "Jewish state" -- which is mentioned in the U.N. General Assembly resolution from 1947 on the Partition Plan -- the Arabs would essentially agree to make no further claims. They will have withdrawn their demand for the "right of return" for Palestinians whose families left Israel-proper after 1947. So what's wrong in making that demand? Is there anything delusional about it?
Toward the end of his administration, U.S. President Bill Clinton was outraged when then Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat denied historical facts and said Jews did not have a place of worship on the Temple Mount some 2,000 years ago. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been repeating this assertion, saying he cannot recognize Israel as a Jewish state because the Arabs lived here before the Jews. The falsehood lives on.
Negotiations, by definition, have multiple tracks. When a Palestinian state is founded, Israel might claim that the new entity is just an autonomous region that lies west of the Jordan River and is controlled by the Arabs of the Land of Israel. So here is where the solution lies: Israel will not be called a Jewish state; Palestine will be just one of the districts of the Land of Israel where Arabic happens to be the official language. How would Peres and Burg react to that?
Even if one were to compromise even further, he or she were to reach the same conclusion. Former MK and Minister Amnon Rubinstein, a law professor, recently said that it was ill-advised to ask the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. However, once such a claim was made, the Arabs' refusal had severe implications. The fact that Abbas and his flock reject this self-evident truth speaks volumes. Why? If the Palestinians insist on having an Arabs-only state, Israel has every right to preserve its predominantly Jewish identity. The Palestinian rejectionism should set off many alarm bells.
Peres, Burg and their like-minded cohorts could hurt Israel. Ironically, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has accepted the Israeli rationale. The Americans have said in no uncertain terms that Israel is a Jewish state. If they recant that statement, Peres and others like him might be complicit.