Speaking before members of Congress, Kerry defined Netanyahu’s position as a "mistake in the diplomatic process." He also said mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians is the highest it has been during any point in the nine months of negotiations.
According to Kerry, there's no need for Israel to insist on being recognized as a Jewish state because "the Jewish state was resolved in the 1947 resolution 181," which "….contains 30 mentions of the Jewish state…"
With prospects for a breakthrough fading, Kerry’s criticism of Netanyahu is a gift for Mahmoud Abbas who has repeatedly said he will "never recognize Israel as a Jewish state."
However, I suggest it is Kerry’s statement which is a "mistake in the diplomatic process."
Why? What does the UN vote of 1947 have to do with the current position of today’s Palestinian Arab leadership who wasn’t part of that process? Plus, what Kerry neglects to mention is while the UN voted by a 72% majority to approve 181 (aka the "original two-state solution"), every Arab state voted against it. Moreover, in addition to voting against it, the surrounding Arab states ignored its passage, and one day after Israel declared independence they attacked it in an attempt to destroy it.
Thus, what good does it do to cite a resolution which the Arabs rejected and ignored?
Kerry also said Yasser Arafat recognized Israel as a Jewish state in 1988 and 2004. In point of fact while Arafat referred to Israel’s right to exist in 1988, he said nothing about accepting it as a "Jewish" state. His reference to that occurred only in his 2004 comments.
However, if Arafat’s words were to be taken seriously, why was the PLO charter, calling for Israel’s destruction, never changed?
Arafat did have an opportunity to redeem himself in the 2000 Camp David ll negotiations when Israeli PM Ehud Barak offered him:
- 97% of Judea and Samaria
- All of the Gaza Strip,
- 75% of the Old City of Jerusalem,
- Control over the Temple Mount,
- Right of return to an unspecified amount of Palestinian "refugees,"
- Compensation for unreturned refugees,
- Release of prisoners, including those who murdered innocent Israelis.
President Clinton said he "couldn’t believe how good the offer was." In the end Arafat flatly rejected it. After negotiations collapsed, Clinton told Arafat: "You have made me a failure." Several months later, referring to the failed negotiations, Arafat quipped: "They can go to hell."
Thus, the obvious question: What stock can be placed in the words of Yasser Arafat if he failed to back them up with action?
Referring to Kerry’s comments, a US State Department spokesperson said: "The United States’ position that Israel is the Jewish state has been clear for years and has been consistently made clear by the president and secretary. Secretary Kerry repeated this again yesterday to Congress."
While this is nice to know, Israel is not negotiating a peace agreement with the US.
The issue of Israel’s recognition as a Jewish state is germane to the two parties directly involved in the conflict, which means them and the "Palestinians."
However, Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state sends a clear message.
Finger should be pointed at Palestinians
With all due respect to Mr. Kerry, rather than criticize Israel for requiring recognition as Jewish state, his criticism should be directed at Abbas for flatly refusing to accept Israel as such. After all, if genuine long-term peace is Kerry’s goal, shouldn’t mutual recognition be a vital component of such an agreement?
Current and former Israeli leadership has said on many occasions it desires peace, and is willing to recognize an "independent 'Palestinian' state." Can their position be any clearer? Yet Abbas continues to deny mutual recognition. Why? The answer isn’t terribly complicated. He acts in concert with the goals of his party, but more importantly the goals of Islam. As such he refuses to accept Jewish control over any land which Muslims view as holy, such as Jerusalem.
Moreover, the charter of his Fatah party makes it clear the entire state of Israel is to be replaced by a single Islamic state of Palestine. Plus, party central committee member Nabil Shaath just stated recognizing Israel would "legitimize the theft of Palestine," and endanger the right of return of the so-called "refugees." Thus, unless Abbas is willing to contradict his own party, or Islam, he cannot recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or accept Jewish control of Jerusalem. Contradicting his party is one thing, contradicting Islam is quite another. Going against Islamic fundamentalists may risk his life.
Ironically, Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran, yet it is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible. Thus, if either side can claim "divine" authority, it’s the Jews who have the upper hand. As for dividing up the land in order to forge peace, even though the Bible confirms the holiness of Judea/Samaria, Israel is still willing to give the majority of it away for a legitimate peace. Taking such action exemplifies "making a bold sacrifice for peace."
Conversely, the Palestinians have not made a single "sacrifice" for peace. It’s pretty clear if there is any moral high ground to be claimed in this process, the Palestinians haven’t even gotten out of the starting blocks. In fact, Israel seems to be running the race by itself.
I suggest Mr. Kerry return to the diplomatic drawing board and start pointing his critical finger where it belongs – toward the Palestinians.
Dan Calic is a writer, history student and speaker. See additional articles on his Facebook page