Explaining Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state

A golden oldie, still relevant today

One of Israel’s key demands from the Palestinians as part of the negotiations for a peace agreement is that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  Possibly because of poor wording, and most definitely because of an animus towards the very idea, the Palestinians are steadfastly refusing to agree to recognize Israel as the (not a) Jewish state.

Astonishingly back in 1988, the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat apparently accepted that Israel is a Jewish state, so it is a mystery why the “moderate” Abbas has gone back on Arafat’s words.

It must be stressed that the Israeli demand, not just from the Palestinians but from the world, is that Israel be recognized as the nation state of the Jewish People. In other words this is an issue of nationhood rather than an issue of religion.

Very many people have a comprehension problem regarding Jews and Judaism. It is important to stress that the Jews are a nation, the Jewish nation, with a common religion – Judaism, and with a national homeland – Israel.  Much of Israel’s problem in getting the world, let alone the Arabs, to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is because our leaders are not making the issue clear.

However, the misunderstanding is not only caused by Israel’s deplorable hasbara and our diplomats’ poor English. There is a deliberate lack of comprehension by the Palestinians, aided and abetted by the Arab League, and not only them.

On second thoughts, it seems that Mahmoud Abbas understands the issue perfectly, for he declared loudly and forcefully that there is “no way he will recognize Israel as the Jewish State“. After all if it was only a matter of the state’s religion and not its nationality, he might be more amenable. Then again, maybe not.

“They are pressing and saying, ‘no peace without the Jewish state,’” he said, though not spelling out who is applying the pressure. “There is no way. We will not accept.”


Palestinians fear the demand is an Israeli attempt to restrict possible return options of Palestinian refugees and the rights of Israel’s large Arab minority. Israeli leaders have openly said the demand is partly to counter Palestinian demand for the return of millions of descendants of refugees, but have rejected the connection to Israel’s Arab citizens.

The Arab League has given its support to Abbas’s rejectionism which will make his compliance that much more difficult should that bright day ever dawn.

Adding to the confusion, an Arab daily said that the US is not insisting the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for continuing the peace talks. However, the State Department is vigorously denying this. However if you read spokeswoman Jen Psaki’s actual remark, it comes over as a lot of waffle open to wide interpretation, depending on who is reading or hearing the comment.

Psaki dismissed the claims via Twitter, writing, that the publication “distorted/fabricated my quote,” and that  she “did not do an interview with Al Quds.”

She added, “US position (as I stated) Israel is a jewish state. But we are not in the business of negotiating from the podium…”

According to an official state department transcript of Psaki’s briefing, what she really said was the following:

“If you look at the issue of a Jewish state and whether Israel will be called a Jewish state, that’s been our position, as you know, for a long time, but that doesn’t reflect what the parties will agree to, which I know you know, and of course there are many issues like that that are being discussed as part of the framework.”

A prime example of diplo-speak if ever I heard one.

Arlene Kushner has an important article about Jewish rights in Israel and the Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. An excerpt:

”But what happens when western democracies ask a democratic nation to sign a western- style treaty with an adversary that values tribe and clan over the nation-state? What happens when one party’s narrative is almost totally based on the negation of the other? While the media look through conventional glasses at the prospects for an Israeli- Palestinian framework agreement and pose certain questions, the view for those truly interested in a lasting peace should be through a more nuanced lens. Such an analysis raises questions that are more difficult.

Is a lasting Israel-Palestinian peace achievable if only one side accepts the legitimacy of the other’s narrative? To begin to resolve the conflict, American and Israeli negotiators should consider a western-style treaty only with concurrent recognition of the narratives of both parties. Diplomatic maneuvering, no matter how well meaning, can not lead to a lasting peace in this region without addressing the fundamental narratives of the adversaries.


”Delegitimizing Jewish historical connections to the land extends from mosques to school textbooks, from the PA press to the PA leadership.


Uniformly, Israel is considered a colonialist enterprise – illegally imposed, and populated by foreigners with no legitimate right to the land. Almost all believe that Israel continually commits ‘war crimes,’ targets Arab civilians, and oppresses defenseless native Palestinians.

Read the whole article. It is very depressing while it clearly explains the problems with the peace process and the pointlessness of the talks.  Arab rejectionism is at the heart of the whole failure.

Khaled Abu Toameh at the Gatestone Institute gives us further insight into why Abbas cannot agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even if he wanted to:

“The dispute with Israel is not only over recognizing Israel as a Jewish state,” Shtayyeh said. “The dispute is over Jerusalem, settlements, refugees and borders.”

The Palestinians say that the real problem facing the peace process is the refusal of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to accept the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not authorized to make any concessions on any of these core issues.

“The Americans are behaving as if this is a personal dispute between President Abbas and [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu,” said a senior advisor to Abbas in Ramallah. “Obama and Kerry think that once Abbas signs an agreement or accepts Israeli and American demands, all the Palestinians would take to the streets to support the peace process.”

In another similar article, Abu Toameh tells us why Abbas will say No:

The Arab League announcement allows Abbas to turn down any request from Obama under the pretext that he is not authorized by the Arab countries to make any concessions.


By requesting the backing of the Arab countries, Abbas is seeking to show Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that there is no point in exerting pressure on him because the Arab countries will not accept any concessions to Israel.

Abbas has actually tied his own hands before the meeting as a way of avoiding pressure.

Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat, resorted to the same tactic during the miscalculated Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. Then, Arafat too claimed that he did not have a mandate from the Arab and Islamic countries to make concessions to Israel and that was why he would not be able to strike a deal.

The Arab League announcement also allows Abbas to tell Obama that he is speaking not only on behalf of Palestinians, but the entire Arab world as well. However, many Palestinians would argue that Abbas does not even have a mandate from his people to negotiate, let alone sign, any peace agreement with Israel.

Now Abbas is going to mislead Obama into thinking that he is coming to meet with him not only as the “rightful” leader of the Palestinians but also as a representative of the Arab world. Never mind that the Arab League, which issued the statement, is considered extremely inefficient and incompetent and that no one in the Arab world takes it seriously.

But the Obama Administration does not seem to care. Obama and Kerry seem to want a deal at any cost, even if it is with a president who lost his legitimacy many years ago and even if the deal will unravel the day after.

This is another side-effect of the lack of democracy and transparency in the Palestinian political society. Sadly I don’t think that having free and fair elections would help dissolve this Palestinian reductionism. If such elections were held, Hamas or its like would be elected and we could say goodbye to any kind of peace talks at all.

Then again, maybe that would be a good thing. At least we would know where we stand and we would not be pressurised into making suicidal concessions to our enemies.

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9 Responses to Explaining Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state

  1. DavidinPT says:

    As always, in the face of Arab/Palestinian rejectionism, the Israeli response should and no doubt will be to continue building and developing. Look where we are now and where they are now -economically, militarily, socially, educationally, logistically, politically, strategically.

    Empirically, the “time is on our side” argument seems to have been decided in our favour.

    Additionally, the Palestinians have to learn that every time they renew their rejection there is a price to pay, principally in the amount of land there is even a possibility of talking about that they might get, one day, when they accept our existence here and are prepared to be good neighbours alongside us.

    • anneinpt says:

      You are absolutely right of course. I just wish our government would act as you suggest – building every time they fire rockets or commit a terror act. But despite all the grandiose announcements from Bibi & Co, they slink off with tail between their legs as soon as any pressure is applied from the West. Which of course is how the Arabs learn there is no price to pay for their acts at all.

  2. ealha3 says:

    The incompetence of the Obama administration as well as the rest of the international community is openly and shamelessly illustrated by their belief that Abbas or the Arab Leagues are anything other than empty shells with the power, competence or interest in being able to accomplish anything other than posture. If there is ever an agreement to anything, the next day it will be abrogated to accommodate any interest against which it may conflict. There is only one dependable element of enforcement of an agreement with Arabs – it is the force of the sword. There are no courts of justice, no culture of personal integrity, no value of reputation that would lend credence to any contract or treaty. Israel need only give the necessary lip service to accommodate the misguided, anti-Semitic interests of the economically influential Palestinian useful idiots of the Obama administration and the international community. As Israel develops its wealth of resources, incorporating the labor of the grass-root Palestinians, there will be a necessary transformation of allegiance from Palestinian mandated suppressed poverty to the Israeli opportunity to pursue personal wealth. That transformation – within a generation, will be the cornerstone of Middle East Peace in Israel and its surroundings.

    • anneinpt says:

      Your reply makes complete sense, as usual. We just have to hope fervently that Palestinian self-interest will finally override their sense of grievance and their struggle for a zero-sum victory over Israel which is at the present preventing peace from breaking out.

    • Earl says:

      I am not so sanguine. Palestinians are infused in utero forward with a base Judenhass. The entire Islamic belief system is based on theological supremacism- driven home daily and weekly to the Mohammedans through their media and their clergy. So- I don’t believe that economic self-advancement will suffice in leading to any lasting peace; at best, a series of hudnas in their incessant quest to destroy Israel as the Jewish state.

      • ealha3 says:

        If we look at the conditions of the disputed territories between 1967 and the first Intifada, we will note the substantial absence of terrorism and presence of cooperation between Palestinian/Arabs and Israelis. During that period, Israel provided education, economic opportunity, a rise in their standard of living, greater life expectancy and general prosperity. Only when Arafat threatened them with false beliefs of Israeli exploitation, false promises of Israeli spoils and the mandate of their religion did they sacrifice their then friendly relations with the Jews. Self interest fulfilled remains a dominant human characteristic. When combined with the success in providing for one’s family, it can overpower even the loudest cries to Jihad from the local imam. This is the fundamental concept of the purpose of free market capitalism.

  3. OyiaBrown says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  4. Pingback: The Grand Mufti admitted the Jews did not steal land, Arafat recognized a Jewish State. How about Abbas? | Anne's Opinions

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