Open Letter to Jeremy Katz, White House Liaison to the Jewish Community
"This settlement will establish Palestine as a Palestinian homeland, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people."--Address by President George W. Bush at Annapolis Conference, Memorial Hall, U.S. Naval Academy, November 27, 2007.
I followed the Annapolis conference closely. The key missing element for a peaceful settlement, in my opinion, is that it is not enough for the Arab nations and the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s existence; they must recognize its legitimate existence as a Jewish state, the Jewish National Home. Indeed, I was gratified to see that President Bush said as much in his closing remarks at the conference.
Unfortunately, both PA President Abbas and his lead negotiator Saeb Erekat publicly stated prior to the conference that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and would continue to insist on a right of return to Israel of the 4 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents. If the PA , Saudi Arabia and the other Arab nations adhere to that position, peace is impossible, because then the two-state solution means a Palestinian state living along side a bi-national state with an Arab majority—in other words, the disappearance of Israel as the Jewish state. The much vaunted Arab League peace plan would be revealed to be no more than a plan to destroy Israel in phases. Indeed, it is worthwhile remembering that that is exactly how the late Chairman of the PLO, Yassir Arafat, characterized the Oslo Accords to Arab audiences.
The legitimacy of the Jewish state cannot not be open to question or negotiation. The June 1922 League of Nations resolution establishing the British Mandate over Palestine stated as its purpose "the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine." United Nations General Assembly Resolution Number 181, passed November 29, 1947, provided for the partition of Palestine into "independent Arab and Jewish States.” If the PA and the Arab nations do not accept that concept, we have made no progress since 1947.
It would be extremely important as a confidence-buildling measure for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to state publicly that it is the position of the United States government that a final peace agreement must include as a necessary element the recognition of the legitimate existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
Very truly yours,
Ralph B. Kostant