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Historic Perspectives on the Jewish State

08 July 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

President Bush spoke of Israel as a ‘Jewish State’, the Arabs did not.  Labor leader (former PM and former foreign minister) Peres did not think it was so important, nor the fact the Palestinians refuse to relent on the demand for full refugee return.  “Israel is a sovereign state and can decide who to let in and who not” he quite rightly remarked.  But that is not the whole story.

The 1917 Balfour Declaration addressed by the British to Lord Rothschild as a representative of the Jewish People stated clearly, “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people”, Palestine being the Land of Israel in Christian European terminology and the Jewish People being all Jews world - wide.  True it did not say a ‘state’.  But on this basis the Jewish National Home became the reason why the League of Nations approved Britain’s Palestine Mandate administration in the 1920’s.  It all fit into US President Wilson’s post – War policy of seeking nationhood for small peoples living under the yoke of former empires.  Britain was to facilitate the success of the JNH in the spirit of Wilson’s vision.  Whether they did or not is another story.

‘Jewish’ statehood in the Land of Israel received universal recognition when the UN voted for the Partition Plan on Nov. 29, 1947 (33 in favor, 13 against, 10 abstentions and 1 no show). UN Resolution 181 spoke of the establishment of Jewish and Arab states in Palestine or what became known as the ‘two state solution’.  All the Arab countries voted against, not only negating the Jewish state in Palestine but the Arab one as well.  Bush mentioned Israel as a “Jewish State” but in essence it was only a repetition of Harry Truman and everyone else’s policies since.   The fact he made the reassurance publicly in front of Abu Mazen and King Abdullah II is of significance.

The issue is not only a semantic one as Peres may have us believe, but one of essence and consequence.  It is true as Golda Meir commented, “It is much more important what the Jews are doing than what the goyim (non-Jews) are saying.”  However this time the oratorical and demonstrative approach is necessary since the officialdom of summitry is the bread and butter of diplomacy.

The Jewish People have been waiting for Arab recognition of their historical rights to the Land of Israel for over 80 years or at least since the establishment of the Israel in 1948.  Such is the crux of the conflict.  In return the Jewish People and their “hawkish” leader Ariel Sharon are willing to relinquish their every day historic national rights to part of the Land in return for peace.  All outstanding issues are to be discussed.  Collective suicide as in Palestinian refugee return is not an option.

The Arab leadership must cross the Rubicon, announcing the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.   Otherwise whatever agreement is signed will always be up for appeal in the future, there will never be normalization and the war will never end.

Or is this precisely what the Arab world wants, even the supposed ‘moderates’?