'The recognition of a Jewish state will have to be done by us, long before peace arrives'
Why does Israel need the Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state? A senior politician asked me this question. He is an ardent supporter of peace, but when he is asked to assess the chances of "peace," he prefers to talk about separation, just like others of the Israeli left and center. Great supporters, even greater skeptics.
Most Israelis - both on the left and the right - don't believe in the possibility of signing an agreement with the Palestinians. Some are skeptical for logical reasons, others are skeptic for reasons of faith. The arguments don't matter, but the conclusions are important.
Everyone has a different understanding of what Israel should do, everyone has different visions. The rightists and leftists are leading to a bi-national state; the skeptics – from the pragmatic section of Bayit Yehudi leftwards – are talking about separation. The words are different, the target audience is different, the geographical separation lines vary between Omer Bar-Lev and Naftali Bennett, but the insights behind the stance are similar.
Op-ed: Israel's right to define itself as Jewish state is as important as its right to defend itself militarily
But what one can say behind closed doors cannot be said in public. Each side has its own electoral threats: The right is afraid of the word separation, the left is afraid of abandoning the vision of the prophets. In the meantime, official Israel is talking about a utopian peace agreement, but hoping for a realistic separation.
So, for that curious senior politician: The recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" is significant only to those who think we can sign a peace agreement that ends the conflict. In other words, mutual recognition is vital to the person holding negotiations for a piece of paper that bears a formula to end a 100-year-old religious and national conflict.
Bits of paper are for those who believe in peace. Skeptics like me need nothing - and definitely not Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state. Without peace, Israel pays a lower price to separate - dreams are downplayed, there are no 1967 borders, and Palestinian demands are irrelevant. If they want to, they'll recognize us; if they don't want to, they won't.
Separation, unlike the current negotiations, does not promise a solution to the conflict. In fact, it promises nothing apart from securing the Jewish majority.
For several years now there has been an argument within Israel over the need for Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. Last week, the ministerial committee approved an amendment to the State Education Bill, under which education must emphasize the value of the State of Israel as the Jewish nation state. This is a good idea, but by the time it reaches the Knesset, an excuse will have already been found why the amendment should not go to a vote, either by the left or the right.
Absurdly, we are demanding recognition from the Palestinians but evading a broad national consensus over the definition of the Jewish state. The State of Israel has no constitution, and the status quo is comprised of basic laws and centers of power. The same with religion and state issue, the same with the question of our personal identity. We are left with the Proclamation of Independence and the Zionist vision.
A state needs definition and laws. The definition of identity applies to the enlistment of haredim into the army, it applies to questions over the Arab minority within a democratic nation state, and it is significant for the current negotiations with the Palestinians. We cannot demand that others do our job for us. The recognition of a Jewish state will have to be done by us, long before peace arrives.