RAMALLAH – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that the Palestinians – and eventually all Arabs – recognized Israel as a Jewish state, as a prerequisite to the resumption of any kind of political negotiations. But what Jewish model of statehood has Israel reflected so far to its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, to entice them into declaring such a dramatic recognition ahead of the end of the conflict?
Israel, in its pursuit of true security, must recognize the fact that it is geographically located in an Arab and Muslim region and therefore must handle its neighbors in a smarter way – especially after the Arab revolution. True reconciliation with these neighbors is Israel's best hope if it want to remain a viable Jewish state in the region, but this goes beyond economical and security viability and means true acceptance, not just a strategic one, by its neighbors.
Israel has failed in its handling of its closest neighbors – the Palestinians – and that is not lost on the Muslim capitals in the Arab world. The way Israel has treated and is treating its Palestinian neighbors is a test for the way it will treat its bigger Arab and Muslim neighbors.
Jerusalem has tragically become the city that epitomizes the increasing hatred and racism and the deterioration of Jewish morals. Israel is employing vast discrimination policies across the city's east and these policies are jeopardizing any chance of the city eventually becoming the capital of peace and tolerance. If Jerusalem becomes the capital of hate, no peace agreement will ever succeed.
Power of humanity
I see only one hope for a cure in Jerusalem: For the Israeli ministers and the rest of the Israeli public to come and visit the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem – where cancer patients from Palestine and Israel still treat each other with humanity and respect, despite all of their differences.
Over the past 12 years, I would bring my mother to Hadassah every so often, for cancer treatments. I would spend entire days there, with Jewish doctors and nurses, who defended their Jewish ideals – humane care for every patient. I often felt that because we were Arabs and Palestinians we received special treatment and I never felt discriminated against in my dealings with the Jewish doctors and nurses.
In Hadassah, they encourage you to fight the disease and other perils, which are more important that all of our other wars, regardless of who you are. In those treatment rooms Jews and Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians are united in their search for a cure, in their prayers to their god. Everyone rises above the conflict and the hate and become simply human. I salute the Jewish Hadassah model and hope it will influence all of Israel.
Israel must think of the long run and that Jewish model should be the dominant one. Israel is a de-facto Jewish state and so it should avoid demanding to be recognized as such. Israel must work to earn respect as a Jewish state – gaining respect based on excellence and right of possession is more powerful than pleading for tactical recognition, which is forcibly imposed.
If Israel could become closer to the humane model of the hospital, it would be worthy of true security and stability and it would be able to enlist the natural good will of the entire Arab region. The Arab peace initiative is still a collective act of Arab goodwill and so far, it has yet to encounter good will in Israel. Imagine the power of that good will were it a mutual one. I hope that the new awakening in Israel will see it make good use of the opportunity for change in the Middle East.
The author is the founder and managing director of a Palestinian public relations and communications company