Israel is a Jewish state, or the nation-state of the Jewish people, because it was established according to the UN’s two-state resolution — Jewish and Arab states — as self-determination is rooted in the law of nations, and because it is the self-determination of the majority of Israel’s citizens. Israel does not need Palestinian recognition of its Jewish character, and has never made such a demand of Egypt and Jordan. So why has Israel been insistent on recognition of its Jewish character from the Palestinians?
US Secretary of State John Kerry stated recently that Yasser Arafat had already recognised a Jewish state. He is right. It is important to understand that recognition. In the mid-1970’s, Henry Kissinger formulated the conditions for dialogue between the PLO and the US administration. These included an explicit and unconditional rejection of terror and recognition of Israel. The issue became relevant only in the late-1980s. The PLO’s status was damaged after its expulsion to Tunisia and the outbreak of the First Intifada. It attempted to return to centrestage through dialogue with the US. Swedish foreign minister Stan Anderson was enlisted to mediate.
In November 1988, the Palestinian National Council convened in Algiers — remembered primarily for its declarations of independence. The same council, for the first time, recognised UN Resolutions 181, 242 and 338. The developments were positive, but the decisions did not satisfy the US. Anderson didn’t give up. He invited five leading Jews, led by attorney Rita Hauser from the US, to Stockholm to meet Arafat. Arafat denounced terrorism and declared his acceptance of the UN resolutions. Apparently, this was the first time the words “Jewish State” came out of Arafat’s mouth. But the US demanded a more explicit declaration, refusing to grant Arafat a visa to speak before the UN. On December 13, a special session was held in Geneva so that Arafat could speak. Once again, the US was not satisfied by his declarations. George Shultz, then secretary of state, was not prepared to deviate from the explicit wording the US demanded. After two days of consultations, Arafat convened a press conference denouncing terrorism and recognising UN Resolutions 242 and 338. He once again declared that the solution was “two states for two peoples”, and a “Jewish state” in Israel. Arafat gave his statements in English. In reality, he read exactly what Shultz had given him. This time, he met US demands. On the same day, December 15, Shultz announced that the US president had decided to open a dialogue with the PLO.
The dialogue was short and futile. At the first outbreak of terror, the PLO refused to denounce it. Iraq invaded Kuwait. Arafat supported Saddam Hussein. continued…