State Department Says Palestinian Recognition of Israel as Jewish State is not Precondition to Renewed Peace Talks
Ha'Aretz reports that the the U.S. State Department has rejected the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Palestinian Arabs recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people as a condition for renewing peace talks. The question therefore arises: Is the U.S. position merely that recognition of Israel as the Jewish State is not a precondition of renewal of peace talks, or does the United States consider the Jewish identity of Israel to be an issue subject to negotiation? According the Ha'Aretz article, when then foreign minister Tzipi Livni first raised the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish State come 18 months ago, the Bush Administration accepted the Palestinian objection that the issue should be subject to negotiation.
This would be less troubling if it were not for the fact that the United States and the Palestinians seem to be ignoring the United Nations Resolution that brought Israel into existence. U.N. General Resolution 181, passed on November 29, 1947, called for the termination of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and the division of the territory covered by the Mandate into "Arab and Jewish States." The Jewish Agency for Palestine, which was the governing authority for the Jews of Palestine during the Mandate, accepted the partition of Palestine under Resolution 181.
The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab nations of the world rejected it. Sixty-two years later, it appears that they still reject it. More troubling still, it seems that the United States--which voted for Resolution 181, and recognized the State of Israel upon its Declaration of Independence in May 1948, a declaration that proclaimed "the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL"--now considers the Jewish character of the State of Israel to be an issue subject to negotiation.
The Government of Israel should demand that the U.S. State Department clarify its position regarding U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 and American recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel may not like the response, but it would at least clarify where the United States stands regarding the recognition of Israel as the only nation state of the Jewish people.
[For those readers who question whether the concept of a Jewish state is appropriate in the modern world, please take note of the following facts:
1. Some 13 nation states recognize Roman Catholicism as their official religion;
2. Four more nations recognize one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches as their official religion.
3. Three nations, including the progressive states of Norway, Denmark and Iceland, recognize the Lutheran Church as their official religion.
4. Armenia recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church as its national religion.
5. England not only recognizes the Church of England as its state religion; the English monarch is the head of the Church.
6. Scotland's official religion is the Reformed Church.
7. Some 24 nations recognize Islam as their official religion, including nearly every Arab opponent of the recognition of Israel as the only Jewish state.
8. Five nations recognize Buddhism as their official religion.
One must therefore ask why Israel is being singled out?
Moreover, unlike nearly every one of the above countries, Israel, while considering itself to be a Jewish State, in fact has no offiicial state religion or single established religion. This reflects the fact that Judaism has always been a national identity as well as a religious identity. Indeed, most persons who consider themselves Jewish, including the majority of Israelis, do not actively practice the Jewish religion and consider their Jewishness to be a matter of peoplehood, not religious belief or practice. One can (and many do) proclaim oneself to be a Jewish atheist or agnostic, without any recognized logical inconsistency.
Therefore, even if all of the above-listed countries disestablished their official religions, and declared themselves to be secular states, that would not call into question the legitimacy of Israel as the Jewish national state, any more than it would call into question the national identities of France, England or Germany.]